Spaniards rejoice as ‘The Fat One’ lottery winners revealed

MADRID (Reuters) – Thrilled Spaniards sang, cheered and celebrated with cava bubbly throughout the country on Friday as the Christmas lottery draw known as “El Gordo” (The Fat One) dished out prizes in a centuries-old tradition that kicks off the holiday season.

Considered the world’s largest draw by the total prize pot, this year’s edition reached 2.59 billion euros ($2.85 billion), 70 million euros more than last year.

Many Spaniards club together with family, friends or co-workers to buy tickets.

The top prize, worth 400,000 euros this year, was distributed among many people who had bought the winning number, 88008. In this lottery, there can be several tickets with the same number sold to different groups.

In the Teatro Real in Madrid, young pupils from the San Ildefonso school picked the numbers from two revolving orbs and sang them out in front of an audience, some of whom had queued for days to be able to follow the draw.

Some wore fancy costumes, dressed up like the Pope or Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, or wore hats adorned with lights.

“I come every year feeling a lot of excitement and happiness to spread luck. I want there to be hope, happiness, excitement, everything,” 79-year-old pensioner Francisco Mur, who wore a suit with the lottery ticket print, told Reuters before attending the draw.

The pupils sang out numbers in turns for more than four hours – the longest it has ever taken to draw the main prize.

In a tradition started in 1812 during the Napoleonic wars, people buy numbers of the Christmas lottery for months. On average, each Spaniard bought 70 euros worth of tickets this year, the state lottery said on Friday.

Winning numbers are traced to certain vendors sparking superstitions on where to queue.

($1 = 0.9092 euros)

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Susan Fenton)