El Gordo: Spain’s Legendary Christmas Lottery Tradition

The Fascinating World of the Spanish Christmas Lotto. Image: Shutterstock/davidxlacalle

THE annual Spanish Christmas lottery known as El Gordo (the fat one) is renowned for its grandeur and is considered the biggest and most famous lottery draw worldwide. This annual extravaganza kicks off on December 22, marking the start of Christmas, and captivating the attention of the country.

The Rich History of the Spanish Christmas Lottery

The Spanish Christmas lottery has a long history, dating back to 1812. It is also considered one of the oldest lotteries globally. El Gordo differs from many other lotteries worldwide due to its unique format. The tickets are expensive compared to other lotteries but they are usually sold in smaller shares (decimas- a tenth) for around €20 making them accessible to a broader range of people.

The Grandeur of the Live Drawing Event

The drawing process of the lottery is a grand live televised event that lasts several hours. School children sing out the winning numbers and the corresponding prizes from two large rotating drums. It is a festive occasion broadcast throughout Spain and the children singing out the numbers can be heard in every bar, it is a sound that is intrinsically linked to Christmas in Spain.

Emphasis on Sharing and Community Involvement

One of its unique aspects is its emphasis on sharing as is highlighted in its much anticipated Christmas adverts. Often entire towns, workplaces, or families buy tickets together, and then if they strike lucky they each get their equal share of the winnings.

El Gordo goes beyond the substantial prizes; it’s deeply embedded in Spanish culture and is an integral part of the country’s holiday traditions.

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!