Hallacas are the South American (Venezuelan) version of a tamale. Masa (corn dough) is spread on a banana leaf (rather than corn husk) and filled with sweet and savory fillings such as ground beef, pork or chicken, cheese, olives or raisins. The bundles are tied then steamed.
These tamales are typically prepared for Christmas. Recipes vary substantially from family to family as is common with local foods. A very similar tamale, Nacatamales, are eaten in Nicaragua and El Salvador. See recipe below.