Spanish Christmas lottery

Today is lottery day, and all over Spain for a couple of hours this morning the radio will be on in shops, taxis, offices etc. at top volume as the results are given. In what is a firm Christmas tradition, children fish balls out of big round things and sing the numbers out, under the careful eye of a jury, an audience and several notaries. There are dozens of combinations and different prizes, but the one everyone would like to win is El Gordo (“The Fat One”).

Children chosen each year from a school in Madrid called San Ildefonso have been singing the numbers at the Christmas lottery ceremony for over two hundred years. Children from the school first took part in 1771 and the school was paid a few pennies for its collaboration which gives some kind of indication of just how established the whole lottery system is in Spain.

This year 15 girls and 16 boys aged between 9 and 12 will represent San Ildefonso, and the percentage of non-Spanish children reflects the multi-cultural society Spain is becoming.

This year 5 children from Morrocco, 2 from Argelia, 2 from Guinea, 2 from Colombia, 1 from Ecuador and 1 from Brazil will be singing the numbers with their Spanish classmates.

This year the overall sum of lottery prizes will reach 1,801,800,000 euros (that’s 1,248,201,077.59 pounds), which is why people get so excited about it. The first prize is 2 million euros, which works out at about 200,000 euros per lottery ticket (each number has a series of tickets, not just one).

According to all the inevitable statistics printed in the Spanish press this morning, over 74 percent of Spaniards usually participate in the Christmas lottery and the average amount spent on lottery tickets this year has been 63.56 euros (that’s much less than the yearly average published by the Spanish Confederation of Housewives, Consumers and Users and quoted in our blog on Christmas spending in Spain yesterday).