MADRID – Spain kicked off the festive season on Thursday with the celebration of one of its most iconic events, the bumper Christmas lottery, known as “El Gordo” (The Fat One) .
The most sought-after prize is worth 400,000 euros ($425,000), or about 325,000 euros after tax, to the winners of a 20-euro ticket, known as a décimos.
In keeping with tradition, the winning numbers were named by children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school in a nationally televised draw at Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house.
The hugely popular lottery will award a total of 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion), the majority of which are hundreds of smaller prizes.
Buying and sharing 20 euro tickets, especially in the run up to Christmas, is a big tradition among family, friends, colleagues and in bars, sports and social clubs.
Other lotteries have larger individual prizes but Spain’s Christmas lottery, held annually on December 22, is ranked the richest in the world in terms of total prize money involved.
Spain established the national lottery as a charity in 1763 during the reign of King Carlos III. Its goal later became to strengthen the state coffers. It also helps a number of charities.
The December 22 Christmas Lottery began in 1812. From the very beginning, children from the college of San Ildefonso sang the winning numbers and matching prizes.
The session begins at 9 a.m., usually lasting about four hours.