Today sees one of Spain’s strangest rituals, as the draw for El Gordo de Navidad takes place live on national television.
Throughout the country, Spaniards will tune into TVE1, the main state channel, to watch well-scrubbed children from a Madrid orphanage selecting numbered wooden balls from a giant golden cage, before calling the numbers out to the public in a strange sing-song style. This goes on all morning.
At some point, El Gordo (the big prize) will be drawn, and 170 tickets will win €4 million each. As ticket numbers are often concentrated in the same place, this means entire villages or neighbourhoods share the winnings. News reporters race to the lucky places to get photos of delighted residents popping the corks on bottles of cava and celebrating.
El Gordo is the biggest lottery in the world, with more than €3 billion of prizes, and a one in six chance of a winning ticket, but despite its size, big prizes are rare. That’s because each ticket costs €200, and is usually split into ten decimos, which are sold or shared among friends.
The annual lottery TV advert is always a tear-jerker, and this year is no exception, showing Spaniards throughout the ages giving a lottery ticket to loved ones as they move to the city, work in a German factory, start a family or look out for their neighbours.
You can see it here.
For many Spaniards, the draw for El Gordo is the sign that the Christmas holidays have begun. Mucha suerte y felíz Navidad!