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In Spain, Christmas Means Playing “El Gordo” – The Fat One. But What is It?

Last updated on November 13, 2017

Christmas is fast approaching, and that means that “El Gordo”, the Spanish Christmas Lottery is also on its way to make some lucky winners very happy. But what exactly is the Spanish Christmas Lottery, we hear you ask?

In Spain, Christmas Means Playing "El Gordo" - The Fat One. But What is It?It’s a yearly tradition in Spain where most of the population play the lottery for a chance to win huge amounts of money. Read on to learn all about this fun tradition and how it came to be one of Spain’s most loved Christmas traditions.

The Spanish Christmas Lottery is better known as El Gordo, and originated way back in 1812 which makes it one of the longest running lotteries in the entire world. Funnily enough, El Gordo translates to ‘The Fat One”, and this is due to the huge amount of money that is put into the lottery pool each year, which also makes it the biggest lottery worldwide.

At €200 per ticket, most people aren’t buying them just for themselves but are chipping in around €20 each among family members, work colleagues or even in bars amongst drinking buddies.

To briefly give a history of the Spanish Xmas lottery, it was brought over from Naples to Spain by King Carlos III in a bid to increase state revenue, and by 1812 the modern lottery as we know it was established and the first lottery was drawn in Madrid and has never missed a year since its inception.

But how does it all work?

Well, because the prize pool is so huge, with current figures estimating this year’s to be 2.5 million, it means that tickets are rather expensive. At €200 per ticket, most people aren’t buying them just for themselves but are chipping in around €20 each among family members, work colleagues or even in bars amongst drinking buddies.

The high level of participation in El Gordo is strong amongst communities, and with 70% of earnings being paid out in prizes, nobody wants to be left without a winning ticket. In fact, one town managed to win €15 million when their community came together to play, which makes them pretty lucky!

An estimated 75% of Spaniards take part in El Gordo, even those who do not regularly buy lottery tickets. Although the El Gordo is drawn on 22nd December, you don’t even need to be in the country to take part as tickets go on sale in the summer!

Every year the lottery is still drawn in the beautiful capital city of Madrid and takes over three hours to complete, so people will stay tuned by watching it on tv or listening to the radio. The draw features two large spheres with one holding the winning lottery numbers and the other holding the prizes to be won.

These spheres are rotated for around half an hour, and then two children will come to each sphere and one will announce the winning numbers, and the other will announce their prizes, both singing the announcements. This will continue until the final numbers and prize have been called, and then the results will remain on display for six more days.

Win or lose, El Gordo is a fascinating Spanish tradition which brings communities together for a great cause at Christmas time which brings positivity throughout the nation. Maybe it’s time for other nations to take a leaf out of Spain’s book!

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