On Friday 22nd, the Christmas lottery winner numbers will be announced. An unbelievable amount of money will be destined to lots of lucky individuals who probably can’t believe their luck by now. Of course, this is no common prize: we call it El Gordo (meaning “the big one” or “the fat one” ), and is always celebrated during these dates, every year without exception since 1812, when the modern lottery was created in the beautiful city of Cadiz, located in southern Spain, Andalusia, with the purpose of increasing state revenue for the public tax authority. It wouldn’t be until the 1814 that the lottery would first be held in Madrid, the capital, which would later become the very center of Spanish National Lottery drawings, as it’s known today.
Spain is known for its love for the games of chance; it’s actually rooted in our culture. Among all the lottery drawings we spaniards celebrate, the most remarkable is definitely the special Christmas drawing, considered the biggest lottery worldwide and the second longest running lottery in the world. In a way, it’s a celebration that indicates the beginning of Christmas itself in Spain, and many people around the country is always willing to participate, be it for tradition or for an undying hope of actually getting El Gordo, and it’s no surprise since it has a value of 4,000,000 € per whole ticket. Since 2011, 100,000 numbers ranging from 00000 to 99999 are played in the Christmas drawing. Each number is divided into a series (with 195 series per number) and each series is divided into tenth shares, called décimos, which cost 20 € each, with a whole ticket costing 200 €.
The fact of buying décimos is somewhat traditional as well as a social event, since it’s a common thing for an individual to get several décimos for their entire family and coworkers. Also, the winner revelation is a show by itself, always broadcasted both via TV and radio on live. While for some it could be quite the plain sight (what’s so funny about two rotating lottery drums with an infinity of tiny, wooden balls inside them?) for others it causes great tension as it’s the highlight moment of the event. How so? Each one of these balls are numbered by laser, and they’re always retrieved by a child who announces the winning number by singing them out, one by one, until the resulting balls form a number of five digits. That number represents the lucky winner and gives the rest hope of someday being the ones to ultimately get the prize.
In addition to El Gordo there’s also El Niño, which is equally important and is celebrated tomorrow January 6th, a Spanish public holiday known as the festival of The Three Kings of the Orient (otherwise known as The Three Wise Men or The Three Magi) who attended Jesus’ birth according to the Bible. This day indicates the end of Christmas in all regions of Spain, while the lottery draw is held in Madrid, the capital. As it’s to be expected, El Niño raises as much anticipation and hopes as El Gordo does, since it’s a renewed opportunity to be a winner.