The top prize in Spain's 'El Gordo' Christmas lottery goes to tickets with the number 88008


Lucky ticket holders walk away with some ¤325,000 after tax each

The children of San Ildefonso sing the winning ticket numbers.
The children of San Ildefonso sing the winning ticket numbers.BERNARDO DÍAZ

Lucky holders of ¤20 tickets with the number 88008 will be celebrating this Friday. They have each won ¤400,000 ($440,000), or some ¤325,000 after tax, in the top prize of Spain's huge Christmas lottery.

People across the country tuned into the television, radio and internet from early morning as children from Madrid's San Ildefonso school begin singing out the prize-winning numbers in the lottery known as El Gordo ("the fat one").

The immensely popular lottery will distribute a total of ¤2.6 billion in prizes this year, much of it in small winnings. Street and bar celebrations normally break out, with winners uncorking bottles of sparkling wine and singing and dancing.

The event is televised nationally from Madrid's Teatro Real opera house.

Purchasing and sharing tickets, known in Spanish as décimos (tenths) in the run-up to Christmas is a major tradition among families, friends, co-workers and in bars and sports and social clubs.

The winning numbers were called out by children from Madrid's San Ildefonso school. The children picked up balls showing ticket numbers and their corresponding prizes from two giant rolling drums. They sang out both figures with a rhythmic cadence that is known to everyone in Spain.

In the weeks beforehand, queues formed outside lottery offices, especially those which had sold prize-winning tickets in the past.

Other lotteries have bigger individual top prizes but Spain's Christmas lottery, held each year on Dec. 22, is ranked as the world's richest for the total prize money involved.

Spain established its national lottery as a charity in 1763 during the reign of King Carlos III. Its objective later became to shore up state coffers. It also helps several charities.

The Dec. 22 lottery began in 1812. Since the beginning, the San Ildefonso children have been singing the prizes.