Certain events never really grow old and usually have the power to go on and create a unique sense of excitement and expectation across a country or even around the globe. These things are often rooted in the traditions that make a nation alive and unique and entice us also to be a part of it.

One such event is the Spanish Christmas Lottery, a unique game of chance that has been played for more than two centuries, and that is not expected to come to a halt any time soon. In fact, in some way, it actually marks the start of the Christmas celebrations across Spain.

In essence, the Spanish Xmas Lottery is by far the biggest lottery around the globe with the biggest pool prize and is usually dubbed the ‘El Gordo’-which means ‘the big one’ or the ‘fat one.’

This refers to the grand prize of more than €4 billion. This grand prize is nonetheless shared between numerous individuals, and it is, in itself, a social phenomenon, widely utilized in the Spanish language to symbolize luck.

This remarkable tradition all begun in 1812 in Madrid, establishing a culture that annually sees millions of individuals watch the highly-anticipated live television draw on December 22nd.

In the run-up just before the official draw, when you spot large crowds of individuals gathered around the street, this might well be that they are queuing to get their tickets.

Typically, it is estimated that more than 73 % of the Spanish residents, especially those aged between 18 years and 75 years, purchase a ticket in the hope that they share the distinct€2.38 billion reward.

Since the Spanish Xmas lottery is designed and purposed to afford a realistic chance for virtually everyone, this draw is designed to offer a one in seven odds of winning, and it is therefore not surprising that its appeal is rather obvious.

Fortunately, for those of us who want to participate in this wonderful tradition but are not based in Spain, the good news is that you don’t need to fly to Spain to win the El Gordo as you can now purchase the El Gordo tickets from various online platforms. This way, everyone has a shot at winning the ultimate prize, notwithstanding where you are located in the globe.

Essentially, the fact that these tickets are quite easy to acquire in such a manner subsequently means that you have the opportunity to join in the thrill and excitement.

This is even if you are unable to participate in the distinct TV spectacular, which has numerous individuals from across the globe glued to their TV sets on 22nd December. It is through this particular broadcast that much of the traditions associated with this national event have gradually become ingrained in the psyche of the nation.

The event is usually held in an exclusive Madrid-based building purposely dedicated to this event and which is known as the Loteria Nacional Hall.

The wooden balls indicating the numbers ranging from 00001 all up to 99999 are placed in the first wire cage with 1807 other wooden balls showcasing the amounts of cash are placed in the second cage. These numbers are usually lasered onto these balls in efforts to ensure that they all boast an identical 3 grams weight. 

With each number being drawn out, a student from the Madrid-based San Ildefonso School sings out the subsequent number. Since its inception, the tradition has been that only boys were allowed to carry out this role. However, since 1984, girls can also perform these duties too. 

The novelty of this grand lottery is not necessarily about the cash prize amount that a winner walks away with.  In essence, what renders this lottery quite extraordinary is the distinct idea of sharing the reward among friends and family.

This splitting of the cash prize is the unique tradition that makes the Spanish Xmas lottery, a highly beloved tradition, not to mention being the root of this lottery’s slogan mainly ‘“El mayor premio es compartirlo” that stands for ‘the biggest reward is in sharing’.

Another similar tradition that has been associated with the Spanish Xmas lottery is that the winners of the grand prizes must donate a portion of their prize money to this school as an act of appreciation.

The ultimate and ideally the grand climax during this evening of the El Gordo is when the draw takes place, and the winning number eventually scoops the grand prize.

What’s more, the runners up also get a consolation with the numbers that come both immediately below and above the ultimate winning prize, each taking home a €20,000 consolation prize. 


With millions of Euros effectively released in prize money annually, the famous Spanish Christmas lottery is undoubtedly the biggest across the globe. Take a stroll around the various Spanish cities or towns around this time of the year, and it will not be long until you start seeing this adored tradition spark to life!

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