Billions of euros are up for grabs during the Christmas season every year when the Spanish El Gordo lottery happens
The whole of Spain comes to life with the season of Christmas with the lights and sounds as well as lines of people buying lottery tickets in the hope of a brighter new year.
That’s when you know that El Gordo (“the fat one”) is in town and carries a huge jackpot for the lucky winner.
If you think the Spanish Christmas lottery is much bigger than the other lotteries, you’d be right. Here’s how this event got started and why it’s worth a punt.
Some of the best lotto’s online are popular but in Spain, El Gordo is now embedded in tradition.
Spanish Christmas lottery basics
Here’s some of the jargon you need to know before spending €200 that could change your life.
Billete: is the Spanish word for ticket. A lottery ticket. The ticket is divided into decimos all in the same series of tickets The draws total 170 series containing 170 billetes for every numero.
A Décimo: is one-tenth of a lottery ticket and sells for €20.
The Número is the main five digit number of a billete orticket,, décimo or participación.
Participación is a smaller fraction of a décimo. Many people buy décimos and then divide each of them into a certain number of participaciones for others to purchase at a price of the décimo owner’s choice.
The Serie is a set of billetes or tickets with the same número. Each serie totals 100,000 billetes.
The wartime fundraiser origins
The first Christmas lottery took place in Cádiz in 1812, when the government needed to raise money to pay for the Spanish army fighting Napoleon..
At that time, a lottery ticket cost 40 reales, which is equal to 6 cents in today’s money. The jackpot was 8,000 pesetas, which is just under 50 euros today.
The average person spends roughly just over 60 euros a year on lottery tickets says the State Lottery Association.
The top prize for El Gordo is around 4 million euros but there are many other smaller prizes just waiting to be taken.
4 million euros could be life changing but for a lottery, it doesn’t seem so big. You have to consider that the winning number gets one tenth of the jackpot which can be off putting.
Then why is a potential win of 400,000 euros so appealing?
The reality is that with the Spanish Christmas lottery, it’s all about the sharing among family and friends that grabs the attention.
The truth is that the novelty of the Spanish Christmas lottery isn’t the amount of prize money that the winners get. What makes this lottery special is the idea of sharing the prize among family and friends. It’s almost a tradition.
The full ticket itself is 200 euros and seems a lot to pay in one go but each ticket is divided into 10 decimos and costs 20 euros each.
Each decimo on the ticket has the same five digit number and the same number can be repeated multiple times across other full tickets.
In this way, the prize is split among all those who share the same ticket numbers.
This sharing of the prize is what is at the core of the Spanish lottery tradition at this time with its slogan of “The greatest prize is sharing”.
It’s an affair of family and friends and is now a part of one of many seasonal traditions.
Don’t miss out
It doesn’t finish with décimos, though. A lot of bars, restaurants and shops will also sell participaciones, which are fractions of a full lottery ticket even smaller than décimos, for less money.
Be on the lookout for participaciones being sold in local businesses around this time.
“They almost convince you to buy into the lottery when you’re there,” said a local, who says he and his family have played the lottery for many years and is part of their yearly tradition.
As an example, Suppose you buy a décimo or a participación with the number 03318 from your favourite local bars and that number wins. You and everyone else with a ticket number of 03318 will get a share of the prize money..
Announcing the jackpot numbers
Ticket sales for EL Gordo start as early as July so the build-up and excitement takes up a large part of the year.
That’s when all the waiting is over and the lucky winners get to collect their prizes and perhaps, change the lives of themselves, as well as family and friends.