May 23, 2024

It’s that time of year again.  “El Sorteo de Navidad“, Spain’s Christmas Lottery,  and “El Gordo“, is upon us – which, frankly, makes it a bit hard to breathe. (ba-dum-dum!) It’s hard to breathe because the lottery is on everyone’s lips and constantly in the news, probably this year more than most.

While some people are spending less on lottery tickets because of Spain’s economic crisis, others are spending more on lottery tickets with hopes that they’ll be whisked away on a magic carpet ride to fortune.

A couple days ago I was in Puerta del Sol to buy my “décimos” at the famed “Doña Manolita” lottery locale on the Calle del Carmen. This lottery stand has existed since 1904, albeit not in the same location. For this reason, it has been the seller of more winning lottery tickets than any other – and so it’s considered lucky.

Question: But what did I find at “Doña Manolita“?

Answer: A line about 100 meters long and lasting about 45-60 minutes.

Needless to say, I didn’t wait in line. A LOT of people DO stand in line for hours and hours, particularly on the FIRST day the “El Gordo” Christmas Lottery Tickets are sold, in order to garner the tickets with the MOST luck. Ooooookay! (see below 2011 video of the 250+ meter line to buy Christmas Lottery Tickets at “Doña Manolita“)


Instead, I bought mine at my neighborhood lottery stand where there was absolutely no line and, in my opinion, has exactly the same “luck” as any other lottery stand. But “luck” has no logic. (yeah, I just made that up. Call me Confucius)

The price for each individual ticket is 20 Euros. It does sound like a lot, right? (particularly for what little you win!) Each ticket represents one-tenth of the series. Each series has 10 tickets and the 5 numbers on each of those 10 tickets are identical. If you match those 5 numbers in order, you win one-tenth of the total winnings for that number. If you possess all 10-tickets in that series and your number comes up, you win the whole prize. “El Gordo” – “The Fat One” – is the TOP prize of all.

The “prize” depends on a random selection of 85,000 wooden balls which roll out of a huge tumbler and also nearly 2,000 wooden balls which roll out of a smaller tumbler. The smaller tumbler balls determines the amount of money won by the 5-balls which roll out of the big tumbler. Confused?

The single big lottery prize is minuscule compared to any bi-weekly, USA state lottery. But, they say, the total payout of thousands of individual prizes is far greater. The most I’ve won was about 120 Euros for matching 3 of the five numbers. But since I’d spent 100 Euros in (5) tickets, I actually lost money – lost money because I’d “gifted” any possible winnings with a number of friends, something I’ll do this year, too – but buying fewer tickets.

Still, the big lottery is fun to look forward to, fun to do, and fun to talk about “what if” you win with friends. The winnings of nearly any prize won’t afford anyone to retire, but might buy a new house or a nice vacation.

The lottery drawing begins at 8am on 22 December, when a pair of uniformed school children (from the elementary school “El Colegio de San Ildefonso”) sing-out the numbered balls tumbling out of the tumblers. (see 2011 video below) It’s quite a spectacle, one I look forward to every year. WISH ME LUCK!!


Watch live online at:

Check lottery ticket numbers at:

Previous blog entries about Spain’s Christmas Lottery for 2007, 2008, 2009.

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7 thoughts on “2012 Spain Christmas Lottery – El Gordo

  1. Great post! I’d like to wish you luck but then I would be telling porkies as I’m really hoping my hubby wins “the fat one” this year.
    Sending winning vibes from down South 🙂

    1. Hehehe.. Thanks, Lisa! Best of luck to y’all down South, too! 🙂 Like I wrote in the blog entry, winning won’t let you retire, but it’ll certainly make like easier for awhile. Did you buy the entire series or just a few odd “décimos” like me?

  2. It seems foolish that that many people would line up just to buy a lottery ticket. However, I guess if you believe in the power of luck than you would sacrifice your time and effort to have the chance to win. Who knows, right?

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