El Gordo de Navidad
Every year since 1812, one of the largest lotteries in the world is held on December 22nd in Spain. The Loteria De Navidad is commonly known as the El Gordo (big prize) de Navidad has the highest overall payout of any lottery in the world. In 2020 the total prize winnings for the Christmas season draw is E2.4 Billion across the country.
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It has become a tradition that almost all citizens take part in every year.
Families, coworkers and friends will often go in on tickets together, even small towns have won big in the El Gordo de Navidad. It has a unique lottery format that allows them to keep the same traditions from when it first started. The drawing itself is like a National holiday. The ceremony is broadcast throughout the country on television and radio and is followed by many lavish parties.
Ticket System and Prices
The El Gordo lottery is different from the North American style lottery where you can choose your own numbers or have them randomly generated from a list. The Spanish Lottery tickets are pre-printed with numbers from 1 – 100,000 and then each number is copied into several series. For example, there are 100,000 original tickets and then they are all copied sometimes more than 150,000 times. So, on your ticket, you will see your Ticket number as well as your Batch Number. Both these numbers need to be present to win.
Each full ticket costs €200 which can be expensive for many people to be able to afford. To make things easier, each full ticket is made up of 10 subtickets or shares that can be divided along perforated edges. So each ticket is made up of 10 smaller parts that can be sold for €20. When you purchase a share of a ticket and that ticket wins you are entitled to 10% of the total winnings. Many organizations, companies, and families will often buy a full ticket and then divide the subtickets into even smaller shares. This is done by signing a purchase sheet with both yours and the seller’s signature that states how much of a fraction you have purchased.
For example, if you want to split your share ticket 10 more times you could charge €2 per each fraction of your subticket. A winning ticket would entitle you to 1% of the total winnings on the original ticket.
The system is unique and creates a much broader payout structure which has kept the Loteria De Navidad going for so many years. They are the second longest running lottery worldwide. Most people have bought annual tickets through their entire lives and it has become a joyful holiday tradition. In many cases, a full ticket will get sold to a smaller town or village and split up among the residents. There have been a few instances where the town ticket was the El Gordo Christmas Lottery winner and made everyone in town very wealthy. There are even pilgrimage trips that are planned for these small towns to buy tickets as they are believed to be good luck.
Like most National Lotteries, the El Gordo de Navidad has a complex prize structure so that many different people can win a piece of the cash. These are the main prize amounts for the main ticket winnings.
- 1st Prize (El Gordo) = €720 million
- 2nd Prize = €300 million
- 3rd Prize =€125 million
- 4th Prize (2 prizes) = €50 million
- 5th Prize (8 prizes) = €5 million
You can even win an Approximation prize if your ticket number is immediately before or following the winning number.
- Approximation for 1st Prize = €200,000
- Approximation for 2nd Prize = €120,500
- Approximation for 3rd Prize = €96,000
Then there are over 13,000 more individual prizes awarded at between €10,000 and €1,000 each.
With the Loteria De Navidad being such an important tradition in Spain, on the day of the draw, it is like a National Holiday. All of the festivities and the ticket draw itself are broadcast throughout the day on all Spanish television and radio stations. The excitement is built up for a full week prior to the drawing as last-minute ticket shares are sold and the event is promoted. Celebrities, State representatives and entertainment giants are all part of the event.
On December 22 each year, the winning tickets are drawn at the Loterie Headquarters in Milan. Lavish parties with A-List guests are continued on into the night on Draw Day. The all-day event has been the same format for over 200 years and is not likely to be changed any time in the future. Traditionally, young students from the San lldefonso School and Orphanage are chosen to draw the ticket numbers and then using the results to the audience. It used to be an honor that was only for the male students to sing out the ticket numbers but in 2012 the rule was changed to include female students as well.
Each individual ticket number is laser cut into one of 100,000 small wood balls that are then all placed into a rotating cage. In a second cage, there are nearly 2,000 balls that all represent a prize amount. When the cages are spun, the ticket ball is chosen first and then the prize ball is chosen to reveal the amount that the ticket has won. With so many balls to be pulled, the process generally takes several hours to complete.
The large winners have always been expected to donate some of their earnings back to the San lldefonso School & Orphanage as a tribute. After all of the winners have been announced, there is an El Gordo Ball that takes place in the second week of January. It is a posh and elaborate event that brings out all of the winners to celebrate with an elaborate dinner and ball. It is really like a Hollywood style event. In many cases, winners have become like celebrities for the rest of the year.
The Loterie has been run by the Spanish Public Administrations that focuses on the social and economic needs of the citizens of Spain. It is a valued part of the National Government and provides funding for Children’s Services, Family Aid and Educational Opportunities.
The lottery has been going on for so long that everyone seems to know someone who has won a little bit here or there. It has become an integral part of the holiday season that has seen families pass the tradition down from generation to generation. In many families, when you reach your 18th birthday, making you able to legally participate in the lottery, you will be gifted a full ticket for the occasion. If you win on your first ticket you may end up with all the ticket-buying duties for your family in the future. Winning on your first ticket is considered to be very lucky.
This annual celebration has become a natural beginning to the Navidad festivities. While playing the El Gordo is like a rite of passage in Spain, winning the 1st prize can change your life and make all of your dreams come true.