Around this time every year, people in Spain wait eagerly for the 22nd of December, the date of the special Christmas lottery under the auspices of the state organization Loterías y Apuestas del Estado.
This lottery first took place on December 18, 1812 in Cádiz, but it wasn’t named the Christmas Lottery until 1892.
This lottery takes place in the Teatro Real or the Palacio de Congresos in Madrid and crowds of people attend. Children from San Ildefonso school, one of the oldest in Madrid with more than 400 years of history, practise singing out the winning numbers. One child takes out a numbered ball from a rotating drum and the other takes out of another drum ball that announces the prize for that number.
The first prize is known as El Gordo (The Big One) and the winner receives 400,000 euros. The ticket with the number is known as el decimo (one tenth), because each number appears on ten different tickets: that is, there are ten tickets with the same number. There are four other prizes as well as El Gordo, worth from 125,000 euros (second prize) to 6,000 euros (fifth prize). Then there is what’s known as La Pedrea, consisting of lots of smaller prizes.
Crowds of people queue up at the lottery offices to buy tickets, which cost 20 euros each. The most famous place to buy tickets is Doña Manolita, en Madrid, which started in 1904 and became very popular because so many of the tickets sold there won prizes.
Many people buy shares in a ticket; that is, a ticket is shared among friends and family. Sometimes local businesses sell shares to their customers. The cost of shares is much lower and the prizes are shared among all the participants.
The television advertisement of the lottery is also interesting, with many moving stories which encourage solidarity. The message is: “The best prize is sharing.”
If you are in Spain now, why not try your luck by buying a ticket or a share? Share the dream!