The purposes of this paper are, first of all, to present a model of semiotic ritual in food consumption, and, second, to carry out a general analysis of the rites of preparation and consumption of the traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish known as hallaca, a particular kind of tamal well known in most Caribbean and Latin American countries. Our ethnographic research is based on the observation and participation field method, during which we have taken photographs, held interviews, and had discussions with actors involved in this family ritual. We have also taken advantage of our own thirty years of experience as direct participant actors. In its first part, this paper presents some theoretical and conceptual definitions that guide us through the analysis. Hallaca is not only a strong symbol in historical and contemporary Venezuelan culinary culture but it is also a living expression of a particular syncretic mixing of semiotic and culinary elements and cultural traditions. We conclude that, as a whole, semiotics of food will benefit from a ritual and symbolic approach to what is done before, during, and after cooking and consuming food. Our analysis shows as well that hallaca preparation and consumption is not only a matter of gathering and having fun but a strong, deep rooted way of expressing, communicating, and renewing profound values and beliefs among family members.