December 22nd, 2007


El Gordo: 6,381

Just after 9 a.m. this morning, students of San Idelfonso Grade School began singing the 1787 winning numbers and their prizes in Spain's famous El Gordo lottery; they finished a little before 1 p.m. Yes, singing, sort of a Gregorian chant, as they've done every December 22 since 1771.

In all, €2,200 million (US$3.19 billion) was awarded in prizes. It's a complicated prize structure. A series of 200 tickets at €200 apiece are sold for each of the 85,000 numbers, and each ticket is often split ten ways and resold, but basically you have a 5% chance of coming out ahead, and if your number is drawn for the big prize, El Gordo, you'll get back €15,000 for every euro you spent on that ticket. A lot of people are drinking bubbly today.

The winning number, 6,381, was drawn at 10:46 a.m. by the team of Álvaro López Guerrero and Raúl Barrak. (Raúl is the son of African immigrants. It might be a lucky sign for African immigrant sons named Barrak/Barack.) The lottery is broadcast live on television and radio.

For many Spaniards, El Gordo is the peak moment of the holidays. It signals the official start of the Christmas season in Spain, which doesn't end until Three Kings Day on January 6, so there's a lot of partying ahead for all of us here.

The average Madrid residents spends €75.77 each on El Gordo tickets. I spend nothing. If you don't win, you're supposed to say, "Well, I still have my health." I already have good health, which at my age is great good luck. I decided not to get greedy.

So I put up my Christmas decorations as the children sang the winners, and I felt especially happy that today is also Solstice because the days will start getting longer. The sun rose at 8:35 this morning, and I am a morning person who likes mornings to come earlier.

Best of all, it's raining, and we're way short on rainfall this season. Droughts happen too often in Spain, and global warming might bring even more of them.

Good luck, good health, and good weather for the holidays.