MADRID ( Associated Press) – Spain begins its Christmas celebrations Thursday with one of its most symbolic events, the Christmas raffle known as El Gordo.
The most coveted prize of 400,000 euros ($425,000), or about 325,000 euros after taxes, is awarded to anyone who has a tenth or a ticket – which sells for 20 euros – with the winning number.
As is traditional, children from the Madrid School of San Ildefonso sang numbers in a draw broadcast nationwide from the Teatro Real in Madrid.
The popular lottery was paying out a total of 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in prize money, most of it in hundreds of smaller prizes.
Buying and sharing 20 euro tickets is an important tradition, especially in the days leading up to Christmas, with family, friends and work colleagues, as well as in bars and sports and social clubs.
Although other lotteries have larger individual prizes, the Spanish Christmas Extraordinary draw, held on 22 December each year, is considered the largest in the world by total amount distributed.
Spain established its national lottery in 1763 as a charitable initiative during the reign of Carlos III. It was later reformed to finance the state treasury, although it also helps various charities.
The Christmas Raffle on 22 December began in 1812. From the start, children from the San Ildefonso school sing winning numbers and present the prizes.
The session, which starts at 9 am, usually lasts for about four hours.
Raquel Redondo contributed to this report.