Spain’s Christmas lottery, El Gordo (the fat one), will take place on 22nd December, and has become the unofficial start of the Christmas holidays.
All over the country, bars and cafes will broadcast the draw – a bizarre affair that lasts for hours and features smartly-scrubbed orphans half-chanting, half-singing the winning numbers and the prizes.
And those prizes are substantial, because El Gordo is the biggest and oldest lottery in the world, distributing a total of over €2.3 billion.
Each ticket is a number from 0 to 99999, and these numbers are issued in 172 series. This means that the first prize of €4 million, and all other prizes, is awarded 172 times. Your chances of winning something are high, at 1 in 6.5, but the genius of El Gordo lies in the decímo system.
A ticket in El Gordo costs €200, but that’s too steep for many, so many groups of friends, workers, customers at a bar etc share the cost between them, buying tenth-share decimos in each ticket for €20. Many of these groups buy the same numbers, so that when the big prize lands, it often showers riches on a village, town or barrio.
Hardly anybody wins the sort of millions that are won in the UK’s National lottery, but many, many more people win substantial amounts, and they often do so along with their friends and colleagues. As the draw takes place, everyone waits to see the images of lucky locals celebrating with cava or champagne in the area where El Gordo has landed.
El Gordo’s Christmas advertisement is always a popular tear-jerker, and the lottery has become surrounded with superstitions concerning lucky numbers and selling points.
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