Musings Abroad-My Life in Spain: A Spanish Christmas Tradition

SPAIN - CIRCA 1976: a stamp printed in the Spain shows Nativity, Christmas, circa 1976

Each year, the Lotería de Navidad has a touching story to share under its slogan “El mayor premio es compartirlo” (The best prize is to share it). This 2015, its annual story came in a form different than its past ones: a short animated film.

The film features a man named Justino who works as a night-watchman at a mannequin factory. Unable to communicate with his co-workers, or to be a part of important occasions, Justino begins to communicate through the factory’s mannequins.

This commercial marks an important tradition that’s unique to Spain called El Gordo, literally meaning “The Fat One”. Not only is El Gordo deeply rooted into Spanish culture, but it’s also the world’s largest lottery. It also happens to be the world’s 2nd longest running lottery, starting in 1892 under the name Sorteo de Navidad. This year El Gordo will give out €2.24 billion if all the tickets sell.

There are 108 series of 66,000 tickets in the lottery. Tickets cost €200, so it’s common to divide a ticket into shares among families and co-workers where there’ll be multiple winners. This communal gambling can make a whole village or group of co-workers wealthy. Regular customers at bars will even take a share in the lottery together, a dynamic which was featured in the Lotería de Navidad’s 2014 commerical.

On Dec. 22, like every year, the Spanish world will wake up early to watch the lottery drawings on live television. The broadcast lasts for 3 or 4 hours, if not more. Tradition holds that the children from Madrid’s San Ildefonsor School will sing out the winning numbers and prizes, as ticket-holders anticipate El Gordo’s announcement. The winners will then be announced through every news medium imaginable, showering the public with pictures and stories of the lucky winners.

Watch Spain’s 2015 National Lottery commercial here:


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