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MADRID (MarketWatch) — “Mil euros.”

If you’re here in Madrid on Friday, then you won’t go far without hearing one of the kids from the San Ildefonso school singing their way through the winning lottery numbers.

This year, the lottery pot, which attracts players from all over the world, handed out €2.59 billion — more than $2.85 billion. An hours-long process sees the local high-school kids sing out winning numbers that are then verified by officials.

“El Gordo” — Spanish for “The Fat One” — gets its name from its status as one of the richest lotteries in the world. The drawing is always just before Christmas, and blasted out over the airwaves into houses and bars. Usually one can overhear it while strolling the streets of any Spanish town.

The drawing at Madrid’s Teatro Real, which hosts opera performances and other cultural events, lures in all manner of festively attired attendees. All are toting their own Gordo tickets, of course. Lore has it that the luckiest tickets are those bought in a group, though individuals have been known to do a late dash on Dec. 21 and somehow — magically? — pick up a winning ticket.

Magic is the operative word here, because the chances of winning at El Gordo have been calculated at 0.001%. There’s a well-known video from David Orden, a professor at the University of Alcalá, northeast of Madrid, who in 2015 delved into the ultralong odds of winning a top El Gordo prize.

“People usually don’t see 100,000 things together, so it’s difficult to visualize how small that is,” said Orden, in a telephone interview with MarketWatch in 2016.

Given that there are lots of smaller Gordo prizes in addition to the big one, Orden calculated the likelihood of winning any prize at about 15%.

As for the 2024 drawing, if you guessed 88008, then fortune and glory are yours. The newspapers in Spain are full of some touching and bizarre stories — the grandparents who could not buy presents for the holidays and won €6,000, or the shopping mall in Barcelona where the second, fourth and seventh prizes were won — it credits a “piedra de oro,” or golden stone, that clients rub their numbers over for luck. And then there’s one of Sevilla’s poorest neighborhoods, where a lottery-ticket vendor will hand out nearly €5 million in prizes.

For those who didn’t win a prize, small or large — and we are legion — there is always El Niño, or the Extraordinary Child, another famed Spanish lottery which will be held on Jan. 6 — the Feast of the Epiphany.

From the archives (December 2016): ‘El Gordo’ and its $2.4 billion jackpot draw crowds to Spain’s luckiest lottery shop

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