21 dic 2011

Christmas lottery in Madrid

Tomorrow a lucky few become millionaires!

If you´re not having enough fever pitch excitement on your Christmas Spanish Course in Madrid then there´s always the Spanish Christmas lottery to catch your eye! Every year millions of Spanish people are filled with hope upon the arrival of this day (22/12/2011), hoping against hope to become Christmas millionaires... sadly only very few achieve that coveted status. The likelihood of winning something, for those with a ticket in this hugely popular game of chance, is around 5.3%.

If you don't buy the ticket,
You can't win the raffle!
Although there´s around an 85% chance of not getting your money back, the 22nd of December Christmas lottery is the most popular of all lottery draws. Even though the first tickets are sold in July the real buying frenzy starts in November in the lead up to Christmas when the streets of Madrid are filled with never ending queues of people hoping to get their hands on the winning ticket. Moreover these chances of winning this year are even slimmer than in past years, due to the current economic crisis, the Spanish government has increased the number of available numbers from which the winning combination can be chosen to 15,000. Spanish people, on average, spend more that 70€ per person when buying tickets for the Christmas lottery!

To make up for the higher odds and to attract more participants the prizes are also bigger and better this year. Out of the total 100,000 numbers in the drum, lots will be drawn for 1,764 prizes, ranging from the most popular “Gordo de Navidad” which is equivalent to 4,000,000€ total prize money, each translates to 400,000€ per individual “decimo” or ticket that is correct (100,000€ more per “decimo” than last year). They have also increased the second prize to 1.200.000€ per series of correct numbers and the fifth prize to 60.000€.
Between such extremes of country-wide obsession and such a small chance of hitting the jackpot, many Spanish superstitions and beliefs have sprung up around the Christmas lottery. One of them is to make sure you buy your ticket from an office of administration that has awarded you an important prize. It is here that you will find unbelievable queues near such ticket offices such as Doña Manolita (Madrid), La Bruja de Oro en Sort (Lleida), Valdes (Barcelona) and Ormaechea in Bilbao.

Everyone wants the golden ticket!
It is also common to choose numbers that are important to you such as birthdays, anniversaries, wedding days or the birth of a loved one. Of course some stick to the same number year in, year out, believing that he or she who sticks to their guns will one day strike lucky. There are also those that think rubbing their ticket on the stomach of a pregnant woman will bring them luck. Some prefer to rub it on a small figurine of a witch, on the back on a hunch-back or the back of a black cat. 

To make it even more complicated it is said that you should always go into the administrative office in Spain with your left foot forward and to make sure that the ticket vendor gives you the ticket with their right hand and when there is a long queue you should stand on the left for oddly numbered days and on the right for evenly numbered days. 

The first lottery, called “Lotería Moderna”, took place in Cádiz on the 18th of December 1812 in the middle of the war of independence. Spain was faced with a profound and crippling crisis, where famine and epidemics combined with clashes with the French caused the Spanish population to plummet as well as enormous economic losses. To make it through and continue paying the high costs of war Ciriaco González Carvajal, member of the Spanish cabinet established the objective to “increase the income of the public treasury and Spanish state without destroying the livelihood of the contributors”. Two years later the slow withdrawal of Napoleon´s troops allowed it to be introduced and held for the first time in Andalucía, Ceuta and Madrid. From this day forth it was known as the “Prósperos de Premios” and later on in 1897, it received its current title of “Sorteo de Navidad”. This tells us that the Spanish people greatly enjoy a game of lottery, so much so that even the Spanish civil war didn´t manage to stop it. However during this period two different versions were held: the republican lottery and a national one.
The lottery´s innocent hands
For more than 190 years, children from the school of San Ildefonso in Madrid are the ones charged with selecting the numbered balls and sing the prizes up for grabs for the Christmas lottery. Their participation is voluntary and although they can enter up until their voices break, they are still forbidden to eat any ice cream in the days leading up to the draw.

The draw takes place at 9 tomorrow morning in the Palacio de Congresos in Madrid. Despite all of the old-wives tales, the organisers of the event ensure that there are no “ugly” numbers and that all of the numbers have a similar probability of appearing. It´s always said that the best prize is the one that is distributed between the most people. Therefore if you still don´t have your ticket- there´s still time to grab one and cross your fingers!

Merry Christmas and Good luck tomorrow!

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