Today, the main prize, known as "el gordo" ("the fat one"), is a whopping three million euros. And it is even raffled off 180 times, meaning a total of 540 million euros will be won. In my country, Christmas begins on the morning of December 22, when the children of the San Ildefenso school in Madrid sing the winning numbers for three hours. The picking out of the winning tickets is broadcast on all the major TV stations. And almost all Spaniards have bought or received as a gift one of the ten-digit lottery tickets that have been on sale for months. We all avidly follow the balls, on which our luck hangs, as they roll around in giant golden drums, and place all our hopes on the 20 children who announce the winning numbers with their bell-like voices.
At 3 p.m., when the news is on in Spain and dinner is served, we know who the lucky winners are. Champagne flows in the stores where the winning tickets were sold, while the rest of the Spanish people stare at the beaming faces of the winners on the screens and shove another bite into their mouths. But there is hope for those who went away empty-handed before Christmas. The "Lottery of the Child Jesus" on January 5 is the second most important lottery in Spain. And that's when almost everyone tries their luck once again.