El Gordo – The Spanish Christmas Lottery

Photo credit: itinari.com

Globally people are gearing up for the Christmas holidays. After more than a year of limiting themselves, people are ready to resume their favourite activities. The past year of reflection caused many of us to realize that we have put off some experiences for long enough. This may be the Christmas to make one of them happen.

There is an annual tradition in Spain that is centuries old. You would be hard-pressed to find any person in or near Spain that does not participate and look forward to this tradition. The event is officially called El Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad. We are speaking of the El Gordo Spanish Christmas Lottery.

If you travel anywhere in December in Spain, you will see preparations being made for the celebrations. Every (adult) citizen in Spain can join in on the Government operated lottery. You may place fixed-odds bets online at Lottoland by clicking the link above. Festivities are in-door

and out-door and include fantastic parades, traditional celebratory foods, and drinks. Music seems to fill every corner of the country. It is a magical and wonderful experience that you can find nowhere else.

The lottery pull

Televisions are set up in many locations so the large crowds of people can see. The pulls take a few hours, and the winners are many, so most people plan the entire day around the celebration.

Hundreds of people dressed for this special occasion line up for a seat in Madrid’s Teatro Real on the evening before the pull. Schoolchildren pick the winning numbers from two golden orbs and sing the numbers out to the crowd. Seeing the golden lottery spinners and hearing the crystal clear voices of children singing is a much-loved part of El Gordo. Nothing is left to chance. Event specialists and auditors double-check every detail of the event. Each ball is counted and carefully checked to ensure a fair game.

Each year precisely 28 million is added to the prize money. A unique fact that makes this annual event so remarkable is that everyone can (and usually does) win a monetary prize of some kind. A full lottery ticket costs €200. However, you do not 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-digit number, and that same number can be repeated multiple times across several full tickets. The prize is divided among everyone who has the same number on their décimos.

Photo credit: Pinterest

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 had been named King. It was decided by the Spanish government to hold a lottery as a way to raise funds for much-needed supplies to support Spanish troops.

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

The lottery accomplished its purpose, and Spain regained its nation from the French, and the lottery became an annual event. The event has grown into the most famous lottery in the world, headquartered in Madrid.

Photo credit: Pinterest


Christmas in Spain includes colorful parades where the “Three Wise Kings” ride on floats and throw candy to the crowds. According to tradition, the Kings come in the night and leave presents for good children of Spain near the beginning of January, a. On December Fools Day, pranksters play tricks on friends. People who wish to opt-out can do so by wearing a wig.

Spain is alive with activities and customs practised throughout the Christmas season. Nobody misses El Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad. This lottery is unlike any other in the world. Only one person wins a huge amount of money in other national lotteries, and the other players are just unlucky. But, in the Spanish Christmas Lottery, millions will be distributed to a multitude of people. Virtually everyone stops on December 22 to join in. This year the top tier prize, called the El Gordo (translation “The Fat One”) is 4 million euros. There are 17 tiers under the grand prize.

As the day continues, almost everyone wins something. The streets are full of people, playing, winning, and celebrating. The prizes go on throughout the day. Most can count on winning something.

Playing the El Gordo lottery is more than hoping for a lucky number now and then. El Gordo is part of Spanish history and part of its culture. This celebration only comes once per year. If you have never experienced it, you should. Be sure to include the trip on your “must-do” life agenda.

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