Spanish Christmas Lottery
One of the first indicators that the holiday season has begun in Spain is when you start seeing the VERY emotional Christmas Lottery commercials. On nearly all television commercial breaks you’ll be close to tears watching this advertisement—obviously different every year. The Spanish Christmas Lottery, Loteria de Navidad, provides a fantasy— an escape from economic struggles and a month of excited conversations, hope and daydreaming. People are crazy about the Christmas Lottery in Spain and for very good reasons. The Spanish National Christmas Lottery is considered the biggest lottery in the world based on prize value! Furthermore, there aren’t just a few winners; many, many people win a piece of the pie—making it even more exciting…
Once the lottery tickets go up for sale, you find yourself surrounded by the buzz. You can hear ticket salespeople yelling in the street things like, “Que numero mas bonito!” translating to “What a beautiful number!” These salespeople prowl the streets with sandwich board style lottery ticket holders, stopping by stores, cafes and even schools (to sell to teachers, of course!)—however, unlike the normal image of sales, they’re typically accepted with open arms—selling a fantasy. You can also purchase lottery tickets in official lottery stores “Loterias y Apuestas del Estado” or “Administracion de Loteria“. The minimum purchase is 20 euros which buys you 1/10 of a number aka there are 10 of each unique number set. Many groups of people like coworkers, family, apartment complexes buy entire number sets together.
The breakdown of prizes is complicated as there are so many winners—and yes, foreigners can win! The FIRST prize granted is called El Gordo (the fat one!) and it is 4 million euros. So imagine if you bought just one ticket of that number series and your ticket was the first prize—you’d win 400,000 euros. The second prize granted is 1,250,000euros, third 500,000, etc. when you get to the 6th prize winners which is 1,000euros though, there are nearly 1,800 winners! So as you can see, many, many people win SOMETHING in the Christmas lottery! Often lottery sales outlets only sell one or two number sets, meaning if those numbers are called for a big prize, it’ll usually all be within the same town. Imagine a town of 3,000 winning the first prize! What a life change for so many people in such a concentrated area.
For me, the most interesting part about the Spanish Christmas Lottery is how the winners are announced, a process basically untouched since its beginnings in 1812. Toward the end of December, children from Colegio de San Ildefonso, a school in Madrid, previously a school for orphans, announce this spectacle. The numbers are on small wooden balls and as they’re drawn, the numbers are sung out by the children. In this way, its one continuous singing event of numbers—televised and heard on the radio throughout the day and taking several hours to finish. (Christmas tree of dreams: “I hope I win the lottery!”)
As mentioned previously, there are many, many winners of the Christmas Lottery! Keeping in mind that I am not even that well connected here, I personally know three people who won some prizes this year in my area of Andalusia. Two teachers at my school alone (separate numbers) each won small prizes (100 euros about). One of my friends won a 60,000 prize (the 5th prize awarded to 8 numbers) a few years back, and finally, the most painful… err I mean exciting of all… one of my very closest friends in Spain won the SECOND prize this year!!! Being from a small town, the second prize hitting the area was absolute EXCITEMENT.
The craziness of the lottery doesn’t end after the Christmas Lottery winners are announced, oh no, things keep going Spanish-style. If they don’t win, people invest in the next biggest Spanish lottery, El Nino, on January 6th. This year some lucky person won BOTH! Where they are getting their luck is beyond me—as you can tell I wasn’t chosen… but hey its heath that matters anyway—or so the non-winners in Spain say every year! 🙂
PS- no, I don’t want to talk about the American Powerball winning tickets.