The real celebration of Christmas in Spain starts on Saturday, December 22, with the drawing of the El Gordo lottery. Lottery tickets cost €200 (about US$260), and are sold in one-tenth shares. Like many people, I bought my décimo share through work so that my coworkers and I can share the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. If I believed in lotteries more, I could also buy tickets through places like my newspaper kiosk or my supermarket and share their luck, or buy tickets directly from a lottery shop.
Luck is what matters. Spaniards believe in luck.
Here in Madrid, the number 17912 sold out fast because on 17 September 2012, the politician who headed Madrid Province resigned. Love her or hate her (few people are neutral), her resignation made for a big day. Moreover, her first name is Esperanza or “Hope.”
At work, we sent the receptionist to the lottery shop around the corner to buy a number at random, which she did: 29168. Is 29 January 68 lucky? Nothing significant seems to have happened on that date in any year ending in 68. I don’t know if this is good or bad.
The El Gordo jackpot is huge, €2,500,000,000 (over US$3 billion), but it gets split into 15,304 prizes ranging from €400,000 (about US$.5 million) for a first-prize décimo to 20€. I’ve never won anything yet, and I’d be happy to merely get my money back. My chances of winning something are 15.3%, so I’m not very hopeful.
It will take three and a half hours on Saturday morning to draw the winners and announce the prizes. The lottery began in 1812, and the winning numbers and prizes are sung by students of San Idelfonso School of Madrid. Yes, sung. You can watch a segment of the 2011 drawing here:
I think this year’s television advertisement is a creepy. There’s no real dialogue, so you can understand it (to the extent that it is understandable) without knowing Spanish:
If you want to buy lottery tickets and you don’t live in Spain, they are for sale over the Internet. Most but not all of the vendors are legitimate. I can vouch for La Bruixa d’Or (the Golden Witch) in Sort, a town in Catalonia. In Spain, witches are lucky and the name of the town, Sort, means “luck” in Catalan:
— Sue Burke