It isn’t officially Christmas in Spain until the elaborate ‘El Gordo’ lottery is drawn and this year is no exception.
The lottery, which translated means ‘The Fat One’ is amongst the world’s biggest and most exciting draws. Unlike the UK lotto there is no single jackpot prize and thousands of five digit numbers are generated to ensure vast numbers of players win, even if it is a small amount.
It was thought that the financial crisis may have dampened the public appetite for this extravagant festive tradition but customers were still queuing in the streets in their thousands to purchase the sought after tickets.
‘El Gordo’ tickets, or billetes as they are known, are not cheap at €200 each. The billet can be bought in more affordable decimos, a tenth of the billet costing only €2.
Spaniards have been swept away by the spirit of the lottery with the dream of gaining some respite from the misery of the debt crisis that threatens to devastate the country. The hopefuls spent an average of €70 or £59 each on tickets and even with a small dip in sales based on last year’s figures a total of €2.3billion or £2billion was given in prizes which range from €20 coupons to the top prize €3 million.
People meet in bars and parties to watch numbers being revealed. They were sung as a Gregorian chant by Madrid schoolchildren on Wednesday during an epic three hour live television event. 195 winners took home the top prize with a further 26, 000 sharing the smaller offerings.
Following this year’s success the Spanish government is preparing to sell its 30 per cent stake in the organisation that runs ‘El Gordo’ in its battle to control the spiralling national debt.