El Gordo – Christmas is coming

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Christmas is coming
THE BIG ONE: Life-changing Christmas tickets on sale. Photo credit: Twitter

WE all have different ideas as to what constitutes the first signs that Christmas is on the way, although the seemingly unrelenting high temperatures being experienced at the moment may well see some wishing their lives away for the cooler times around that time of the year.

I’ve only been in Spain full time for a handful of years – since 2009 – and Christmas on the Costa Blanca takes some getting used to with neighbours and friends planning big events on the beach in glorious sunshine for most of the time.  In my final years in the UK, I knew I was counting down to the festive season when the X-Factor auditions and the announcement of partners for Strictly Come Dancing were announced.  Now, it’s the annual announcement of the El Gordo (The Big One) Christmas Lottery tickets going on sale!

Even though it’s not drawn until December 22 every year (a Friday for 2017), the world famous state lottery tickets always go on sale in July.  The aim of making them available so soon is to encourage holidaymakers to buy one of the décimo, or 10th of a ticket which are sold at a set price of €20 per ticket.   This is the price charged in the official lottery offices but you may see some in other venues for €22 or €23.  Usually, these tickets have been purchased by a club or fund raising society and they are allowed to add an extra couple of euro.

Why put them up for sale so early?  The official line is to “encourage tourists to take a piece of Spanish luck home with them.”  Also, it will help cash flow for year-round residents who would otherwise decide not to buy an El Gordo ticket in December as the usual extra Christmas expenditure means €20 is harder to find.    Many local people form syndicates and pay in so much a week to buy the tickets from different parts of Spain, and I can remember delighted customers in my local asking me to get a couple of El Gordo tickets for them when I announced I was off to Barcelona for a weekend!

The 2017 draw will see 170 million tenths of a ticket put on sale – five million more than last year – of numbers ranging from 00000 to 99999.  The total value of prize money available will be €2,380,000,000 and €70,000,000 more than in 2016.

However, because a full ticket costs €200, most people only buy a décimo, or tenth of a ticket at €20, meaning the first prize equates to €400,000.

Second prize is €1.25m for a full ticket or €125,000 for a tenth, whilst for third place; the pot comes to €500,000 for a ticket or €50,000 for a tenth. There is a selection of fourth or fifth prizes too and if your ticket is picked out among the hundreds of individual numbers drawn, that tenth is worth €200.

Remember, if you don’t see the five-figure number you want hanging up in the lottery offices, ask the person behind the counter if yours is available and they can print one out especially for you.

The traditional singing of the lottery numbers on December 22 by children of the San Ildefonso School in Madrid is, for many, and probably me too after my eight years the real start of Christmas.

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