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The Spanish Christmas Lottery – El Gordo   

Spain honors an annual Christmas tradition that dates back hundreds of years. It would be next to impossible to find anyone near Spain who does not look forward to participating in this celebrated event. The official name of this happening is El Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad. But, it is commonly referred to as “The Spanish Christmas Lottery, El Gordo.”

This article was written in collaboration with Lottoland.

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Throughout December in Spain, preparations are in the works for the celebrations. Every citizen can participate in the Government-operated lottery. There is an additional option for those who wish to place their lottery bets online. You may place fixed-odds bets online at Lottoland. Also, check out the Summer Lotto, which has many winners. With this option, everything is digital, and you are betting on the outcome of the lottery.

Fun and celebrations

Festivities include fantastic parades, traditional celebratory foods, and drinks. Decor, music, and games fill the buildings and spill into the streets. The celebrations are magical and should not be missed.

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The lottery pull

People bring their televisions to courtyards, parks, and other gathering sights so no one will miss a single number. This is a requirement to allow the large crowds of people to see. This event lasts the entire day, and people come prepared to stay. The pulls take a few hours, and the winners are many. Every detail is checked and double-checked. Event specialists and auditors check every detail of the event. Every ball is counted and inspected to ensure a fair game.

On the evening before the pull, hundreds of people dressed for the occasion lined up for a seat in Madrid’s Teatro Real. Well-dressed school children pick the winning numbers from two golden orbs and sing the numbers out to the crowd. It is a breathtaking scene watching the golden lottery spinners and hearing the angelic voices of children singing the numbers. It is a much-loved part of El Gordo.

Twenty-eight million is added to the prize money annually. In this lottery, everyone can (and usually does) win a monetary prize. You can purchase an entire lottery ticket at the cost of €200. But, you don’t have to buy a full ticket. Each ticket is divided into ten décimos. You can buy one décimo for a cost of €20 each. Every décimo is imprinted with the same five-unit number, and that same number can be repeated several times across multiple full tickets. The prize is divided among everyone who has the same number.

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The first Spanish Christmas Lottery

In 1812 Spain was at war with the French empire. The French had control of most of Spain, and Joseph Bonaparte was named King. The Spanish government decided to hold a lottery to raise funds for much-needed supplies to support Spanish troops.

The government had 25,000 numbered balls for the lottery. It was the first time balls were used instead of wads of paper. The cost to participate was 40 Spanish dollars. The winning number was 03604, and the prize was $8,000.

The lottery was successful, and Spain regained its nation from the French, and the lottery became an annual event. Currently, El Gordo is the most famous lottery globally, headquartered in Madrid.

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Christmas in Spain includes traditional parades where the “Three Wise Kings” ride on floats and toss candy to the crowds of people. According to legend, the Kings come in the night and leave presents for the children of Spain who have been good all year. It takes place near the beginning of January. Another custom used is called “December Fools Day.” On this day, pranksters play harmless tricks on friends. People who don’t want to play can opt out by simply wearing a wig.

Throughout the Christmas season, Spain is alive with activities and customs.  Missing El Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad is rarely done. The El Gordo lottery is unlike any other in the world. Only one person wins a massive amount of money in other national lotteries, and the other players are just unlucky. In the Spanish Christmas Lottery, millions are distributed to a multitude of people. Virtually everyone stops on December 22 to join in. The top tier prize, called the El Gordo (translation “The Fat One”), is 4 million euros. Plus, there are 17 tiers under the grand prize.

As the day goes on, virtually everyone wins something. The streets are full of people, playing, winning, and celebrating. The prizes continue throughout the day, and most people can count on winning something.


The Spanish Christmas Lottery is unlike any other. Everyone should experience it at least once in their lifetime. Once you do, you will never forget it, and you will probably access the lottery online for years to come.