One of the many thnings I love about spending Christmas in Spain is the Christmas Lottery draw also known as "El Gordo" - or "The Fat One". And for pure entertainment value. The very first year I came to Barcelona, I remember turning on the TV in the morning and almost every single channel (no TDT, guys) was broadcasting the draw. And I had absolutely NO IDEA what was going on. I was absolutely baffled.
I was 16 when the National lottery first started in the UK, so obviously went along and bought my ticket. Simple process, you fill in one of those sheets with the 6 numbers you'd like to choose and then get your ticket. So you choose all 6 numbers. And it's highly unlikely that there are more than, say, another person who has chosen those same numbers as you. So the expectations and dreams you might have of becoming a multi-millionare (and probably not having to share it with anyone) made part of the draw....er, part of the draw.
Now, I still don't think I fully understand how the bloody hell the Spanish Christmas lottery works, but it most certainly grips the nation like nothing I've ever seen before. Tickets go on sale in JULY, and there used to be a pretty famous bald bloke who would adorn your bus shelters around the cities with catchphrases such as "Could it fall here this year?" and the like. Wacky stuff in the heat of summer, seeing snow, Christmas trees and that bloke blowing angel dust towards you.
Tickets are known as "decimos" or "tens" as there are at least ten of each number and cost a whopping 20 Euros each. There are seemingly hundreds of prizes ranging from the refund of your ticket (usually goes straight back into the New Year Draw known as "El Niño"), and then varying amounts up to the big one of 3 million Euros. No, that wasn't a typo. The "fat one" is only 3 million Euros. OK, OK, I know "only" is perhaps the wrong word, but I mean none of your 110 Million EuroMillion malarkeys. Given the sheer amount of prizes, there's a 15% chance of winning some kind of prize, so maybe the "great" odds are what so many people play.
Part of the reason I (now I understand it) love the day, is the whole performance. Big old Bingo cages are rolled out and loads of little wooden balls are tipped into them, so no complaints about technology here. Starting from early morning, two balls are dropped out at a time with one being the ticket number and the other being the prize. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, the funny bit is that kids from (I'm guessing a posh school called Sant Ildefons) SING the numbers out. Loudly. For about 4 hours.
Obviously, Spain now has the Euro as their national currency, but it used to be the Peseta - so numbers were huge (although not as huge as the Lira, to be fair, which was just silly). So 1 million pesetas was only 6000 Euros. Given that the Spanish lottery ticket number is a 5 digit number, the whole singing thing is an absolute tounge-twister for a recently-arrived foreigner (see first paragraph)!!
I could write a whole other post about improving your chances of winning by buying your ticket from the Catalan Town of "Sort" - where a huge majority of the tickets are printed. They have their own witch (Sort means "luck" in Catalan) too, and people flock from literally miles and miles around to buy directly from Sort. And you can still "choose your numbers" - apparently favourites this year have been the date that Spain won the World Cup, or the minute that Iniesta scored, etc. So if you're in front of a TV (or Radio, for that matter) then be sure to tune in on Wednesday 22nd December.
Coming to Barcelona this winter? Check out these Barcelona apartments for rent and if you need a quick look at what not to miss, then see this Barcelona Guide.