Student Holiday Traditions From Around the World

It’s no surprise that food is a common theme when it comes to our students’ favorite holiday traditions. Our international students shared some fun and surprising ways they celebrate the holidays with their families and friends. Check out some traditions from around the world, including Aruba, Albania, Ethiopia, Honduras, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. 


Marcello Mattei ’21, biomedical engineering

During the holidays, Marcello Mattei’s family comes together to prepare a traditional Venezuelan dish, Hallacas. Hallacas are similar to tamales and require two entire days of preparation.

“Hallacas is so complicated to make, each family member has to help,” Mattei says.

Day one of preparation begins with roasting a pork leg and mixing it with ground beef and chicken. On the second day, Mattei’s family prepares maize dough colored red with annatto, which is then spread on a plantain leaf and filled with the pork roast. Then, the hallacas are put together in an assembly line, with someone working the dough, another adding the meat and a final person adding the toppings, including olives, almonds, onion,bell pepper and other garnishes. Finally, they wrap it all together and enjoy their hard work.

“We make so much of these, we eat them all the way from December through January,” Mattei says. “Preparing and eating hallacas always brings the family together.”

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