Spain’s bumper Christmas lottery – known as “El Gordo ” or “The Fat One” – is offering the public a welcome distraction from the pandemic’s doom and gloom with a total of €2.4 billion (£2 billion) in prizes.
The draw, which has been held annually since 1812 to mark the beginning of the festive period, will see the top-prize winner get €328,000 after taxes.
People have queued for hours in the days running up to Wednesday’s lottery to snatch their €20 tickets from the most popular vendors.
Some buy them for themselves or as gifts for others. Work colleagues, relatives or friends also pool money to buy them, with their eyes set on sharing the prizes.
Other lotteries have bigger individual top prizes but Spain’s Christmas lottery, staged each year on 22 December, is ranked as the world’s richest for the total prize money involved.
Despite a spiraling number of coronavirus cases — Spain on Tuesday marked its pandemic record of new infections, with nearly 50,000 reported in one day — the public is returning to Madrid s Teatro Real opera house after last year’s hiatus.
Following the tradition, children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school call out prize-winning numbers, followed by jubilant street and bar scenes of winners celebrating with uncorked bottles of sparkling wine.
The lottery is run by the state and supports several charity efforts. The total prize money given out represents 70 per cent of the proceeds from ticket sales.