22 Dec 2008

Christmas Traditions part 1: Dec. 22 - Lotería de Navidad!

"'Tis the season to be jolly, falalalala la la la laaaaaaa..."

It's that time of the year again! When colourful lights brighten up city streets and trees. Festive music is heard all around. People look for the ideal gift for a loved one. And we turn our homes upside down with decorations. My favourite time of the year! I get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, people seem happier (or at least make an effort to appear so), families come together (unless a member is too far away, snif!). Wonderful!

It's a time of traditions, which vary from country to country, from family to family. So I thought I'd share a few here over the holidays. Some personal, some national.

Today's tradition is a big one here in Spain: La Lotería de Navidad!
It's held every year on December 22nd in front of notaries and open to the public (and shown live on TV), with the numbers and prizes sung by children of the neighbouring school San Ildefonso. Numbers become available in July, but the lottery frenzy really kicks in with December and the beginning of the publicity campaign. Estimations for Christmas Lottery sales come out to +/- 200€ per person! It's such a part of the public conciousness that you'll hear people commenting on the TV ads or asking each other if they've seen it yet. Here's one of the first ads with "el calvo", a bald guy distributing luck and dreams in the Christmas Lottery adds during ~7 yrs:

85000 numbers are available, and Wikipedia lists the prizes (1787 total, since 2005) - for a grand total of ~ 2142 million euros - as:
  • 1 first prize of 3.000.000 euros, known as "El Gordo" (the "Fat One").
  • 1 second prize of 1.000.000 euros.
  • 1 third prize of 500.000 euros.
  • 2 fourth prizes of 200.000 euros.
  • 8 fifth prizes of 50.000 euros.
  • 1.774 prizes of 1.000 euros.

And you know the old expresion "close but no cigar"? Not so here! There are prizes for just being close to some of the winning numbers!

  • 2 20.000 euro prizes to the numbers before and after the first prize.
  • 2 12.500 euro prizes to the numbers before and after the second prize.
  • 2 9.600 euro prizes to the numbers before and after the third prize.
  • 297 1.000 euro prizes to numbers in the same hundred as the first, second or third prize.
  • 198 1.000 euro prizes to numbers in the same hundred as the fourth and fith prizes.
  • 2.547 1.000 euro prizes to all tickets whose final two numbers coincide with those of the first, second or third prizes.
  • 8.499 "refunds" (for those with the last number the same as the "Gordo") of 200 euros.

With all this each number usually has a 15% chance of winning some kind of prize. And to spread the wealth even further, each number is divided in "Décimos" or "tenths" which is the unit most people buy (costs 20€), so if you have one "décimo" of a number and that number wins a prize, then you get one tenth of the prize! So all in all it's a very widely distributed lottery, with prizes going out all over the country, and reporters off chasing to find people who've won one of the big prizes to show them on TV (the news at lunch today dedicated about 20' to the lottery! images of people laughing and crying, showering in champaign, making plans for their winnings). One of the nice things is that every year you hear these stories of people in pretty dire financial straights whose lives just became a lot easier thanks to the lottery windfall (sob stories abound!).

The tradition includes families offering numbers to each other, friends getting together to buy a "décimo" together, small associations/clubs etc selling "participations" of a number (you buy a 2€40 ticket worth 2€ of the 20€ décimo + 40ç to help that club finance itself). Here's one my friends and I got together for 2 years ago (sadly not awarded anything):

That's all for this entry! Best of luck to any lottery players out there! Que la suerte os acompañe! y FELIZ NAVIDAD! :o)

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