Spain's excited wait for the famous Gordo lottery prize

Children can barely contain their excitement as they “sing” the Gordo in a previous year.
Children can barely contain their excitement as they “sing” the Gordo in a previous year. / EP
  • Christmas lottery

  • 22 December is an important part of the run-up to Christmas, as millions around the country hope for a share of the famous 'fat one'

Spain’s Lotería de Navidad is more than just a festive draw. It is an essential part of Christmas as young and old hold on to their tickets, and shares of tickets, in the hope that some of the top prize, the famous Gordo, might come their way on 22 December. And this year, as coronavirus has brought hardships to millions, a pre-Christmas windfall will be more welcome than ever.

As the television commercial for the special Christmas draw reminds us each year, the essence of this special lottery is in the sharing. There are 2.4 billion euros up for grabs this year, divided into more than 26 million prizes (although the majority of these involve getting your money back).

The draw itself goes on all morning. It is normally carried out in a theatre in front of a festive fancy dress-clad audience, and broadcast live on TV with on-going coverage on radio and online. This year however, there will be no audience inside the Teatro Real due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The stars of the ceremony are the children from the San Ildefonso school in Madrid, who have the job of “singing” the winning numbers and the corresponding prizes.

In smart uniform, the youngsters carefully catch the balls that are released from the two large drums and call out the numbers on them to the familiar tune that has been the soundtrack for the 22 December lottery for more than 300 years.

'Billetes' and 'décimos'

The grand challenge posed by the Lotería Extraordinaria de la Navidad is to understand how the tickets and prizes work. What exactly are the ‘billetes’, ‘décimos’ and ‘participaciones’ - and how much is the famous ‘Gordo’ prize?

This year 172 series of 100,000 tickets or ‘billetes’ have gone on sale. Each of these ‘billetes’ is divided into ten parts, ‘décimos’, which are the tickets we find in the lottery offices and carried by street vendors. Each one of these costs 20 euros. In other words, a total of 172 million 20-euro tickets went on sale this year, amounting to 3.44 billion euros. Around 70 per cent of this is given out in prizes.

However the top prize, the ‘Gordo’ or the ‘fat one’ is only worth 688 million euros. Each of the 172 ‘billetes’ with the winning five-digit number will be worth four million euros and one 20-euro ‘décimo’ will be worth 400,000 euros if it wins the ‘Gordo’.

The second prize is 1,250,000 euros per ‘billete’ and the third is 500,000 euros. There are two fourth prizes of 200,000 euros and eight fifth prizes of 60,000 euros. It is when these prizes come out of the drum - and this could happen at any moment during the morning - that the children’s voices rise, their singing becomes more dramatic and the audience stirs.

After the five top prizes comes what is known as the ‘pedrea’, 1,794 prizes of 1,000 euros (or 100 euros per décimo). All these have to come out of the drums and the children repeat the ‘miiiiiil euros’ litany each time.

Other prizes are awarded for numbers adjacent to the winning numbers and numbers that share the first or last combinations of digits with the winning numbers.

Finally, all the numbers that share the last digit with the Gordo get the ‘reintegro’, or your money back.


As soon as the top prizes come out of the drum, the first information reported is where the tickets were sold. Geography has always played an important role in this lottery, with people traditionally buying their tickets when visiting places that they think might bring them better luck than their home towns.

Modern technology has put an end to tales of people travelling across the country to find the number they want, but not to the general air of excitement generated by the Christmas lottery.

And when you don’t win the Gordo, there’s always the Niño, the similar, but less well known, lottery that could being an extra windfall, along with all the presents on 6 January

Good luck!