El Gordo, which takes place on 22nd December, is the world’s biggest and second-oldest lottery, and an event that will be followed closely throughout Lanzarote and Spain.
With 160 first prizes of €4 million,and many more, El Gordo is immense.
El Gordo means “the fat one”, and it’s well named. The total amount of prize money totals €2.3 billion and the first prize amounts to a whopping €720 million. However, the real appeal of this national event is the fact that the prizes are shared so widely – not many will become millionaires, but thousands will receive an early Christmas present they only dreamed of.
Every participant in El Gordo buys a €200 ticket, or a tenth of a ticket (décimo) for €20. Each ticket is a five figure number, and there are 160 series throughout the country. If the winning number is, for example, 12345, then the holders of that ticket in all 160 series will win €4 million, or €400,000 if they have a décimo.
Ticket sellers often sell the same number from various series, meaning that the first prize often goes to everyone who’s bought that ticket in one Spanish village, town or suburb. On the afternoon of the 22nd, Spanish TV always shows scenes of jubilant winners spraying champagne and celebrating in the street.Read more...
But before the celebrations comes the draw, which is one of the strangest rituals in Spain. Held in Madrid, it involves large cages full of wooden balls whirling around, which are then selected by well-scrubbed children from the San Ildefonso school. The children then march across the stage singing the winning numbers out loud. This goes on all morning, and the sing-song chant of the children can be heard in bars and shops all over the country.
Lottery sellers all over Spain sell tickets for El Gordo, but it’s also possible to buy particular “lucky” numbers online. The Catalonian town of Sort, whose name means “luck” has made a minor industry out of selling lottery tickets, and all over the country superstitions abound about winning numbers.
Last year, a €400,000 décimo for the winning number was sold in the Deiland Shopping Centre in Lanzarote, and it’s not the first time Lanzarote’s seen a winner, although the island is still waiting for the sort of communal jackpot that hits the headlines on the 22nd.
And if you don’t win, don’t worry – as millions of Spaniards with losing tickets say every year “It’s your health that’s important.”