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, 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 broadcast live on TV with on-going coverage on radio and online.
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.
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.