The countdown is on here and if you want to feel like a true Spaniard then head down to the lottery kiosk and get in line with the dozen or so others to purchase that much prized "Loteria de Navidad" or El Gordo lottery ticket. The draw takes place this coming Friday, 22 December and virtually everyone here in Spain takes part.
You can almost feel the excitement in the air as you walk past long queues outside the lottery shops and kiosks, with everyone hoping to win a slice of hope. There is more than €2,380 million in prize money to be won, but ticket sales close at 5pm on Thursday 21, so don’t leave it till the last minute.
The draw takes place at the Teatro Real de Madrid in Madrid and is broadcast live on Spanish TV channel "La 1" and on the internet from 8am. The actual draw starts at 9am and all bars will have their televisions tuned in. The first ever El Gordo took place in 1812 in the city of Cadiz, but since 1814 it has taken place in the capital.
The numbers are picked out of two massive spheres and sung out by 40 students from the San Ildefonso school - the entire draws takes about 3 hours. To help you gauge the size of the giant drums, 100,000 small wooden balls, each printed with a 5 digit ticket number are placed in one of them. A laser is used to mark the numbers and the balls are all exactly 19mm in diameter and weigh 3 grams each. The second drum has the prize amounts.
The tickets are pre-printed with a 5 digit number - it´s not like the Euro Millions where you can pick your own numbers. 100,000 tickets are printed and each ticket is printed in numerous series or sets, with one ticket divided up into ten decimos or sections - you can buy either an individual ticket for €20 or the entire sheet, which would set you back €200. This explains why there are always so many winners on the day – but since 2015 any winnings over €2,500 are taxed at 20%.
Benidorm has sold quite a few of the big prize tickets over the last few years and you can easily identify which outlet has sold them as there are usually very long queues outside, with the vendors proudly displaying their certificates from the lottery commission congratulating them on it.
Good Luck or as they say in Spanish, Buena Suerte and remember, if you don´t win on this one you can always try your hand at the other big Christmas lottery, the "El Niño" which takes place on 6th January!