El Gordo - The special Christmas draw

Spain is a diverse and beautiful country with a unique architectural and cultural heritage. With scenic natural vistas, cosmopolitan cities, pleasant climate and a fantastic gastronomic landscape, it has been drawing travellers from all around the world. Talk of Spain and a few things that immediately come to mind are Tapas, Churros, Gaudi, Pablo Picasso, La Tomatina, Flamenco and Sangria. There is one more notable addition to the list - El Gordo. Wondering what it is? Read on to know more.

El Gordo - The special Christmas draw


Every year in Spain, just before the country begins its Christmas festivities, they begin another tradition that is centuries old. It is a tradition that virtually everyone participates in and is probably, the most exciting day of the year. The annual date is December 22nd, and the event is the El Gordo Spanish Christmas Lottery. (The word El Gordo translates into "The Fat One").

If you travel anywhere in Spain in December, you will see people making plans for the celebrations. This lottery is put on by the Spanish government, so it is for the entire country. The festivities will be inside and outside. There will be decorations, foods, and drinks to purchase, music, and parades. Televisions will be set up so the multitude of pulls can be seen. The pulls take a couple of hours and the winners are plentiful, so prepare to stay all day.  

On the night before the event hundreds of people, usually dressed for such a special occasion,  line up for a seat in Madrid’s Teatro Real, where pairs of schoolchildren pick the winning numbers from two revolving orbs and sing them out to the crowd. It is important to note that every aspect of the event has been checked and double-checked by event specialists and auditors. Assistants also count and check each ball carefully to ensure nothing has been done that would prevent a fair game.

Each year the prize money is increased by exactly 28 million. But it is more than the huge prize that makes this annual event so special. It is that everyone can (and usually does win a portion of money). A full lottery ticket itself costs €200, which is a lot to drop at once. However, each ticket is divided into 10 décimos, which cost just €20 each. Every décimo on the ticket has the same five-digit number, and that same number can be repeated dozens of times across several full tickets. As a result, the prize is divided among everyone who shares that same number.


The first Spanish Christmas Lottery

Things do not always remain as they begin. In 1812 Spain was in the throes of a bloody war with the French empire. Most of Spain had been taken over by the French and Joseph Bonaparte had been named King of Spain. While many people in the government did not approve of lotteries, it was decided to hold a lottery as a way to raise funds for military supplies needed to support Spanish troops.

The government commissioned the production of 25,000 numbered balls to be used in the lottery. This was the first time balls had been used instead of wads or stacks of paper. The lottery did take place. The winning number was 03604 and the prize was $8,000 Spanish dollars. The investment for the win was an investment of $40,00 Spanish dollars.

The lottery spread throughout Spain as did the war, with Spain taking their nation back from the French and the lottery becoming an annual event that has grown into the most famous lottery in the world; headquartered in Madrid.


Christmas in Spain includes colorful parades where the Three Wise Men (Kings) ride atop floats and throw candy to the people. Early in January, the Kings come in the night and leave presents for good children. December Fools Day where you can play some tricks on your friends or opt-out by wearing a wig, or you can feast on a slice of Christmas cake baked to look like a King’s crown. Many customs include art, food, and stories to make children full of wonder.    

Christmas Food

There are many more activities in the Christmas season, but El Gordo is one Christmas tradition nobody misses. El Gordo is Spanish for "the fat one." This lottery is unlike any other. In traditional lotteries, one person wins a huge amount of money and the other players are just out of luck. But, in the Spanish Christmas Lottery, millions will be distributed to hundreds of people. There are so many winners that virtually everyone stops on December 22 to celebrate and play. This year the top tier prize, called the El Gordo (translation "The Fat One") is in excess of 2 billion euros. There are a total of 17 tiers under the big one. You can buy a whole ticket but a lot of people buy shares of a ticket. If the ticket you buy is a winner, you divide the money based on the purchased shares.

The drawing of the balls is televised and it is a very beautiful and exciting part of the Christmas tradition. Children from local schools sing out each number that is drawn throughout the day. One child sings the number while the corresponding child sings the prize.

As the day goes on, almost everyone wins something. The streets are full of people celebrating. Televisions are brought outside so everyone can keep up. This happens on December 22nd every year. The Spanish Christmas Lottery brings families and friends together. It is a day of restoration.


Global Participation

People all over the world play the lottery. In Spain, playing the lottery is more than hoping for a lucky number now and then. In Spain, the Spanish Christmas Lottery is part of the Christmas tradition. El Gordo is part of the Spanish culture. There are millions in prizes and there are thousands in prizes. The prizes go on for the entire day. The one thing you can count on is everyone wins something.


How do you bet on Spanish Christmas Lottery?

You can buy the Spanish Christmas Lottery tickets from any licensed shop in Spain. There are many locations, and you will soon know where they are when you are in Spain. People line up for hours to buy their tickets.

You can also place bets on Lottoland. Lottoland is an offshore casino company with lotteries in more than 30 countries. With Lottoland you place a bet online from your computer or phone app and you are betting on the results of the lottery. It looks, plays, and feels just like being there. If the number you select at Lottoland is the winning number in Spain, you win the exact same prize.

The El Gordo Spanish Christmas Lottery only comes once per year. If you have not traveled to Spain to enjoy it, you are missing out. Add this to your agenda this year. Who knows what next year holds.


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