Holding Spain's Christmas Lottery envelope and ticket at Doña Manolita (Madrid)

A Guide to La Lotería de Navidad: How to Play Spain’s Unique Christmas Lottery

The center of Madrid on a brilliantly sunny October day – a surprisingly perfect day to buy a lottery ticket, two months in advance.

Puerta del Sol (Madrid), October 2021.
Throughout this post, you will see some of the pictures I took while I waited in line (see the left side of the above photo) to buy a ticket at the famous stand, Doña Manolita, located just a short walk from Puerta del Sol.

Madrid, October 2021.

The Spanish Christmas lottery drawing starts around 8:30 am on the same day every year, December 22nd. Coverage starts early to show viewers the setup and distribution of the tens of thousands of little numbered balls, which are typically made of a mixture of wood, brass and bronze. There is one medium-sized structure and one humungous cage-like structure that they are all stored in called bombos (lottery drums in American English). It has a cranking tool at the bottom in case a ball gets stuck, which tends to happen a couple of times during the lottery’s 5-6-hour coverage.

After watching the coverage on a couple of different channels, I’ve found that the popular news station called La Sexta (Channel 6) provides the best coverage with a list of all the big prizes on the left of the screen and the last 20 numbers that have been called. At the bottom, you’ll see fun facts about the lottery’s history, statistics, reminders of who is singing on stage and which large prizes (and their respective numbers) will appear. They call a lot of números during this whole production so it’s easy to get confused.

On the other hand, a channel like RTVE (La 1) usually shows interviews with past winners and inspiring features from history. This year they’ve put a special focus on La Palma in the Canary Islands, where La Cumbre volcano caused a lot of damage to their communities. The president of the Lotería y Apuestos del Estado is hoping that after a difficult year, the winnings will be widely distributed and will go to those who could use it the most. Speaking of winnings, a total of 2.4 billion euros was awarded in prizes in 2021.

Soniquete “Miiiiil euros” Canta número, canta premio, the 1.000€ prize per series is called the pedrea. The other prize amounts are ordered by euro amount and are awarded by series. They have a total of ten abacuses and each strand is called an alambre (row on the abacus). My husband and I did actually win this prize (100€ per ticket per series) in December 2020 but we chalk that up to beginner’s luck. Do you know why? It’s because we have kept buying tickets each year since but haven’t won anything else! (Updated in 2023)

Categories of available prizes

1° Premio, 2° Premio, 3° Premio, 4° Premio (2), 5° Premio (8)

Fun facts

Melilla is the only region where the El Gordo jackpot has never been won. In Madrid, the jackpot has been claimed 81 times, the most in any region.

The first 40.000€ of any large prize is exempt from taxes. However, at least in 2021, you can’t claim your winnings on December 22nd, if you were so lucky, because the lottery workers are on strike. This year’s new feature allows you to claim prizes of up to 2.000€ via Bizum (an app similar to Venmo in the US). If you’re unable to watch it during the live draw, you can check to see if your number has been drawn via La Sexta’s (or another local news station’s) online tool El Lotómetro.

Have you ever played Spain’s La Lotería de Navidad before? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

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