How the Christmas Lottery can increase festive cheer

How the Christmas Lottery can increase festive cheer. Image: Supplied

How the Christmas Lottery can increase festive cheer

(partner Content) Christmas, to a lot of South Africans, means a time of relaxation and giving. It can also be a period of opportunity and good chance to enter the El Gordo draw.

How the Christmas Lottery can increase festive cheer

How the Christmas Lottery can increase festive cheer. Image: Supplied

If you are wondering what the El Gordo is, it’s the Christmas Lottery that happens in Spain once a year – and South Africans can play for the outcome as well.

The exchange rate at the moment makes the jackpot look enticing. A direct swap from euros to rands put the highest prizes in the region of a collective R42 billion. That, indeed, is a mega amount of money, even if shared among several people. This makes the El Gordo a contender for the biggest lotto in the world.

The direct translation of ‘El Gordo’ in English is ‘the big, fat one’. It operates more on a raffle model than a lottery system. It is, in fact, the oldest lottery draw in the world. It happens on 22 December each and every year. That’s a couple of days before Christmas, of course, so the timing can be good looking to continue their festive season with great cheer.

The draw is televised and throngs of Spanish residents watch it unfold. It’s pretty much more popular than when Barcelona or Real Madrid meet in the Champions League or La Liga.

Interestingly, the very first El Gordo ceremonial draw was held a few days prior to Spain ratifying its constitution in 1812. And it has happened every year since, even through the nation’s civil war of the 20th century.

Nowadays, the ceremony can last up to three hours and sometimes even a bit longer, as children from Spanish schools sing out the winning numbers and really add to the festivity and celebration of the occasion.

The popularity and feel-good factor of the Spanish lottery really gripped the world when two housewives’ associations shared a record €4 million (approximately R70 million) El Gordo jackpot back in 2011.

“I’m going to pay off my debts,” one winner told Cadena Ser radio at the time.

Another added: “This is the reward for a very bad year, full of sacrifices and hard effort.”

The chances of winning a prize are quite reasonable. Over 1800 numbers are drawn and each entry effectively has a chance to win a prize that is the approximate equivalent of up to R70-odd million. Even if it’s one of the prizes in the lower tiers, entrants still have a good chance of winning some money.

Because the Christmas Lottery in Spain is ostensibly centred around comradery and community, it’s nice that the winnings are often shared among several people rather than just one or two in isolation. It can add to the meaning and importance of the whole thing.

A lottery seller in Spain, Manuel Rodríguez, once epitomised this comradery by buying seafood to celebrate the 2020 wins with others.

“I’m going to bring some centollos (a popular Spanish crab dish), the kings of seafood, to celebrate with them all,” he said.