Do you know what the Christmas Gordo is?

Let us tell you the story of this Spanish Christmas tradition.

Although the official dates of Christmas in Spain are from December 24 to January 6 (coinciding with the school holidays), December 22 is also marked on the Spanish Christmas calendar. The reason is that this day marks the draw of “El Gordo”. Do you know what we are talking about? Have you ever heard this expression?

Do you know what the Christmas Gordo is? 1

Why is it called “El Gordo”?

“El Gordo” is the Extraordinary Christmas Draw of the Lottery in Spain.

According to some sources, it is called so because, at the end of the 18th century, the advertising for this draw included a man, short and a little chubby, who had his body full of lottery numbers.

Do you know what the Christmas Gordo is? 2

Although the official name of this character was “el Enano Afortunado” (the Lucky Dwarf) or “el Fanático de la Lotería” (the Lottery Fanatic), eventually the nickname “Gordo” was used to refer to him, and over the years, the first prize of the draw was thus named.

History of the Extraordinary Christmas Draw

The Christmas Lottery Draw in Spain is considered one of the oldest in the world.

Its history dates back to 1812, when Spain was in the midst of the War of Independence against the French.

That year, the Cortes of Cádiz, where the provisional Spanish government was located, proposed to create this game to raise money to fund the conflict.

The first Christmas Lottery ticket went on sale on December 18 of that year.

The price of the ticket was 40 reales, and the first prize went to the number 03604.

The winner received 8,000 strong pesos.

Obviously, this draw was very different from the one we know today, and not just because of the modesty of the prize.

That “Gordo” of 1812 was only held in the towns of Cádiz and San Fernando, under the name of “Modern Lottery”.

As the French withdrew and the Spanish troops advanced the draw spread, and just two years later, in 1815, it was already held in Madrid.

Do you know what the Christmas Gordo is? 3

Even so, it was not until the end of the 19th century, specifically until 1892, that it began to be called “Christmas Draw” throughout the country.

Since then, it has been held uninterrupted, although during the Spanish Civil War there were two parallel draws (one for each side of the war, the Republican and the Nationalist).

For many years, Spaniards followed this draw on the radio or read the winning numbers in the press the next day.

Over time, it began to be broadcast live on television, becoming, for many people, a tradition to watch it every December 22 with friends and family.

What is a “décimo” and what is the Christmas Lottery prize?

Do you know what the Christmas Gordo is? 4

In Spain, practically everyone plays the Christmas Lottery.

It is also very common to buy “décimos” half and half with friends and family and share the prize.

The décimo is the minimum unit of the draw.

As its name suggests, it is one-tenth of a ticket: in other words, each ticket consists of 10 décimos that have the same number and belong to the same series.

In total, Spain’s Christmas Gordo has 100,000 numbers, issued in 172 series, whose digits range from 00,000 to 99,999.

The first prize is €400,000! for each décimo played (the décimo costs €20), although the Extraordinary Christmas Draw distributes more than 2.5 billion euros in prizes each year.

Do you already have your décimo for the next draw?”

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Do you know what the Christmas Gordo is? 6
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Natalie Hotchkiss
I thoroughly enjoyed my 4 weeks at Taronja ( intensive course sept.-nov. 2017). After two years of studying Spanish at university, I by far made the biggest jump in my level of Spanish at Taronja. The classes are a good mix of grammar and culture, taught by enthusiastic teachers. In a short period of time, my speaking and understanding of grammar improved dramatically, as well as my general confidence using Spanish. The school also arranges a wide variety of interesting and fun activities that all involve present the opportunity to practise Spanish, to some extent. Valencia itself is the perfect city, with something for everyone of all ages. I could not speak higher of the school and my time there, I really do recommend Taronja, and I cannot wait to go back later on this summer!
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Lee Freeman
I spent a fantastic week at Taronja in May 2019. The booking process was really straightforward (and I appreciated being able to sort out my accommodation through the school too) albeit a little embarrassing when recording a video of myself to have my level assessed 🙈. The booking information I received indicated that someone would be there to greet me at the accommodation upon arrival, but this wasn't the case – I didn't mind though because I'm a grown up and don't really need looking out for like that. The teachers and supporting staff were really friendly and helpful. The classes were challenging and taught entirely in Spanish, which I think is really beneficial and, for the level I was at (~B1), falling back to English shouldn't really be necessary. In the week I was there we alternated between days studying grammar (the present subjunctive) and more 'relaxing' days where we dived deeper into other topics such as ser/estar and por/para (though I would have been happier doing even more grammar studies, but maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment). I think what really stood out about my week at Taronja was the effort put into the social activities. There were things to do every evening and a weekend excursion had been organized too (but unfortunately I had to fly home that day and couldn't attend), so even if you arrive as a solo learner/traveller, you'll be able to find people to hang out with fairly quickly. In case it isn't clear, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend studying at Taronja, however I feel that attending for 1 week simply wasn't enough. Many of the people I met were staying for any amount of time from 3 weeks to 3 months. It's for this reason that I intend to return to Taronja next month for 2 weeks to try and really press on with improving my Spanish (and escape the miserable Dutch summer).
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Alexandra Utkina
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