Spanish Christmas Lottery

Spanish Christmas Lottery 2013

Wanna be real Spanish? Then, you gotta buy some Spanish Christmas lottery. Now it’s the time. People have already got crazy about it!


In Spain there’s a big tradition with this particular lottery: the Christmas one, called in Spanish “Lotería de Navidad” (Christmas = Navidad) or “El Gordo de Navidad” (the Christmas’s fat one).

The draw is on the 22nd of December. At this point (today is the 9th of December, 2013) people have:

not bought a single ticket yet but they will shortly.

bought one or two and will likely buy more.

bought one or two and will not likely buy more (that’s me!)

gone crazy and have bought more than five (or more than twenty, who knows).

There are always some exceptions, although I would say that the majority of people buy Spanish lottery at Christmas.


Getting ready for the Spanish Christmas draw

(Getting everything ready for the 2013 draw)

Rotating Drums for Spanish Christmas Lottery

(The stage will look similar to this photo)

Truth be said. For the last years I have behaved, but I remember some Christmas ago buying between 5-7 tickets per draw. Do your math when I tell you how much it is per ticket 😉


The very first draw was carried out on the 18th of December 1812, the same year the first Spanish Constitution was initially promulgated.

The goal was simple: to generate more profit for the country without ripping off the citizens (I suppose prizes were insignificant in comparisson to those today).

Christmas lottery in Spain: checking numbers

(Checking out every single detail for the draw)

In the beginning it was called “Modern Lottery” (Lotería Moderna) to make it different from “Primitive Lottery” (Lotería Primitiva, also still in use. I will write an article in the future on this).

Since the Spanish Christmas lottery began, the draw has been performed by the “children of Saint Ildefonso” (Niños de San Ildefonso).

The school of Saint Ildefonso (one of the oldest schools in Madrid, late XV century) was an orphanage until Spain became a democratic country.

Many people in Spain dream of hearing those children telling their numbers. Wouldn’t you?


The draw is broadcasted live on the 22nd of December. It starts around 8:30am and goes on for several hours.

A lot of people watch it on TV or hear it on the radio.

The event is carried out in a big room with rows of seats occupied by people. At the end there is a stage with two rotating drums: the biggest contains balls with the five numbers, the other contains balls with prizes.

Spanish Christmas lottery draw

(Children of San Ildefonso)

One child picks up one ball of five numbers and “sings it”. The other child grabs a ball with prize and “sings it” as well.

In Spain we say that the children “sing” the numbers because they do it in a way it seems they are singing. Take a look to the following video. It is the moment when they sign the highest prize in the last draw on the 22nd of December, 2012.



It is 20€ per ticket. If you’re going to get one, just say in Spanish: “one décimo” (one tenth, I’ll explain why in a minute).

If there’s one ticket in particular that you like from the lot they’ll have, just point to it and say in Spanish: “ese” (that one) :-)

Ticket 2013 draw - Christmas Spain

(This is the 2013 format. Just substitute the 5 balls on top for 5 numbers)

You may see places where they sell it at 23 Euros. The three extra Euros are usually a contribution to associations, charities or similar.

However, I’ve heard of some people in my hometown that sold Spanish Christmas lottery at 23 Euros and kept the 3 Euros.

What’s the point of keeping the 3 Euros? Nothing. But if they sold more than 100 tickets, then…


Traditionally there have been two ways to buy them:

Official establishments (indoors and outdoors). They are almost everywhere all over Spain.

Sellers walking around. You will see them in many places, especially in those with big concentrations of people (restaurants, squares, mains streets, etc).

Official Lottery Logo - Spain

(Official logo of the Spanish National Lottery)

It is possible to buy tickets on the Internet as well. I don’t recommend this option unless you’re familiar with the website. It seems there were some frauds with fake websites in the past.


Honestly, I would be happy to know that you won the Spanish Christmas lottery because you bought a ticket after reading my article.

Let me explain the basics:

Each ticket has five numbers: from 00,000 to 99,999.

There are 100,000 balls (with the 5 numbers in each ball) inside the biggest rotating drum. The smallest one has 1,787 balls; each of them has a prize on it.

Each ticket has 180 “billetes” (bills) and each “billete” consists of 10 tickets. This means there are 1,800 tickets available per number (in Spanish we say “number” but we mean “five numbers”).

(That ball could be your number)

The ticket is called “décimo” (tenth) because one is one tenth of one “billete” (ten tickets).

The highest prize is called “El Gordo” (The Fat One), and it’s 4 million Euros per (billete).

So, one ticket is 400,000 Euros, since it’s one tenth of the “billete”.

(Fingers crossed!)

Here is a prize chart I made for you (prizes shown per “billete”):

Prize Chart - lottery Spain

Now you can calculate how much you will win!

(Think of that ball in the right having your number)


You can get the money next day, on the 23rd of December.

Prizes less the 3,000 Euros can be obtained at any official establishment.

In case it’s more money (hopefully), then the ticket must be taken to any officially agreed bank, such as BBVA, Santander, Caixa Bank, CECA, or even to a national Spanish lottery office.

I would personally take it to the official office. Somebody told me a while ago that banks charge you some fees to process the prize. So let’s not make them richer than they are.

(On the 22nd of December I will turn the TV on to see if you are celebrating like this people)

IMPORTANT: you have three months to get the money. After that, it will expire. If that happens, there’s no way you can claim the money.

That unclaimed money goes to the Spanish taxation department, and it seems they get a lot of money each year from non-claimed tickets. Don’t be one of them!

Finally, remember, prizes over 2,500 Euros have a 20% tax on. So, let’s say, if you win 10,000 Euros, 2,000 of them will automatically go to the taxation department accounts. The remaining 8,000 are completely yours.


On the 6th of January, which in Spain is the Three Kings day, there is a similar draw.

This one is called “Lotería del Niño” (Child’s Lottery). According to some sources I researched, the name was given after because:

Catholic Epiphany is celebrated that day.

Children in Spain receive gifts that day (similar celebration to Santa Klaus) supposedly brought from the three Kings (I found out they were my parents when I was about 6 or 7, but I remember how cool and exciting it was up until then).

Child's Lottery Spain

(An example of the 2013 “Child’s Lottery”. The original ticket will have five numbers instead of those 5 balls)

The “Lotería del Niño” is less popular, since there is less money in prizes, but still famous too. One ticket costs the same: 20 Euros.

You can read more about both draws at the official website (in Spanish). Right there you can also enter the five numbers and check out your ticket… but wait until the draw is over on the 22nd!


Long time ago I read that most people’s dream was: to get rich quickly without doing much or nothing.

In recent years the best licit candidate to become rich as quick as possible has been the lottery.

Every week throughout the year there are numerous opportunities in Spain to win some type of lottery.

I’m sure there are some little exception to become rich doing business in a short period of time. No doubt. But lottery is there permanently available for anyone.

Being realistic, I stopped dreaming on winning the lottery years ago, after playing a lot of times, of course.

At least, I stopped planning what I would do with all the money I’d win (which I have never won).

Maybe I should not say that I quit on dreaming. When I covered the section about the 20% taken by the taxation department, I inevitably opened up the computer’s calculator.

Yeah, I multiplied 400,000 times 0,20 and discovered that they’ll take 80,000 Euros of MY MONEY if I win “el gordo”!! What a bunch of…!!!

See? I’m still kind of a dreamer.

Good luck if you finally buy one or if you already got it!


Image credit: la verdad, abc, te interesa, abc, cadena ser, te interesa, que, el mundo, abc


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  1. Jess says

    HI David,

    What an excellent article, I am sure every one will be interested.

    I have already bought my ticket.

    Good Luck with yours.


    • David Ruiz says

      Hi there Jess,

      Thank you so much! The Spanish Christmas Lottery is a very important event in Spain. Big time.

      There were three different people yesterday selling at a restaurant. They had tickets from several Spanish cities, north and south Spain. I was tempted to buy one more :-)

      I hope you win this year Jess!

      Best regards,


  2. Brad says

    Hello David

    In your article you say the numbers are 00000 to 99999 and that there are 85000 balls. Isn’t there 100000 balls?

    Also you say that you have to pay tax for large wins, is that correct? I thought all prizes were tax free.


    Saludos de inglaterra y San Miguel de salinas


    • David Ruiz says

      Hi Brad,

      Good observation. I just changed it to 100,000. It used to be 85,000 before 2011. My mistake. They increased it after that year to 100,000.

      Lottery was tax free before 2013. Then, the following year you had to declare it as income tax. Now it’s 20% taken off automatically.

      No chance to fly away to Bahamas or any place like that with all the money :-)

      Thanks Brad. Saludos desde Torrevieja.


  3. peter says

    Yeah, I multiplied 400,000 times 0,20 and discovered that they’ll take 80,000 Euros of MY MONEY if I win “el gordo”!! What a bunch of…!!!

    couldnt agree more lol

    • David Ruiz says

      Hi Peter,

      A lot of money, isn’t? I’m sure there are some new ones around the corner. Maybe 25% off from prizes in 2015? Wouldn’t be surprised.

      We’re doing fine for now. It’ll probably hurt if we ever win the lottery!