Traditions of the Spanish Christmas Lottery

The Spanish Christmas Lottery locally referred to as El Gordo (the Big One), is a lucky draw that happens yearly in the country. For Spaniards, this lottery is a unique part of their culture. Billions of euros are dished out in prize money every December 22, but El Gordo is not just about winning big

It is warmth, friendship, and sharing. It’s a tradition. Walking through Spanish cities or towns around this time of the year, you will often see thousands of Spaniards lining up at lottery booths and buying tickets to try their luck.

How the El Gordo Came to Be

The Spanish Christmas mega sweepstake was inaugurated in 1812 to help raise money in the war against Napoleon’s armies. The tradition lived on, surviving the global flu endemic that wiped out a big fraction of the country’s population between 1918 and 1919. 

It similarly survived the 1930s Spanish Civil War that that saw the country’s administrative capital move from Madrid to Valencia. And under the dictatorship rule of Francisco Franco that suppressed all major cultural traditions in Spain, El Gordo lived on as well.  

The Spanish Christmas Lottery had a grim start and journey. Nonetheless, its objectives have always been to be a positive contribution to the country’s development. It has enabled unity, cohesion, and economically uplifted Spaniards of every caste.

El Gordo is the World’s Biggest 

In the early days, a single lottery ticket would cost 40 reales, which is about six euro cents in today’s currency. The grand prize back then was 8,000 pesetas, which is slightly under €50 today.

Currently, Spaniard’s spending on the lottery averages at €66.16 per person, according to data by the State Lottery Association.  The grand prize has risen to about €4 million, with smaller awards handed out every year. 

75 % of Spaniards participate in the lottery. Foreigners and non-residents can join in too; you can play the Spanish Christmas Lottery from Ireland, Germany, France, or any other country online. 

The country’s lottery is the second’s longest-running in the world after Netherland’s Del Lotto. However, the high participation levels and the amounts of money involved in the Fat One makes it the biggest. The camaraderie and the sharing of the winnings is a big part of the Spanish identity, and probably one of the reasons this draw will live on to future generations.

It’s not a Winner-Takes-it-All Lottery 

The biggest allure of the Spanish lottery and what enables masses of people to participate in it is its sharing structure. In most instances, people with the winning number get only a tenth of the €4 million prize money.

Most people prefer to get lottery tickets with friends and family, and the prize money is equally shared. A full lottery ticket goes at €200. One card is further split into ten décimos, which cost just €20 each. Each décimo has the same printed numbers, allowing everyone that shares these lottery chances to partake in the million-euro prizes. 

If you feel like €20 is too much to spend on a game of chance, the décimos are further split into participacións that cost far less but gives you a chance at big winnings nonetheless. These smaller parts of the Spanish lottery tickets are sold at bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and local kiosks throughout Spain. 

The Spanish lottery has changed the lives of participants from all walks of life. 80 % of the money collected now goes towards the country’s charities such as the Red Cross. 

This Christmas Lotto in Spain is a frenzy to the point that people associate winnings with towns and villages. For instance, in 2005, all 1,700 winning tickets were sold in Vic. That luck brought the city a total of €510 million. This was also the case in the town of Almazan in 2006. Six thousand residents had each purchased a décimo of the winning ticket, which brought them a €375 million relief from their economic hardships. 

It Marks the Start of Christmas in Spain

Christmas in Spain doesn’t start until December 22. But late as that may be, the Spanish Christmas Lottery is one of the most significant Christmas traditions in the world.  You can always expect the participation of the children from the San Ildefonso School, which goes back to the 16th century and lots of music, costumes, and booze.

The students sing out the number of the ball every time they are dispensed, announcing the corresponding prize amount. The draw event takes several hours. The fanfare event takes place at Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house. It is the beginning of Christmas.

*This is a collaborative post, always bet responsibly*

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