The lucky winners of Spain’s Christmas lottery celebrated on Friday as they eagerly awaited receiving their share of the 2.4 billion euro, or $2.8 billion, prize.
The annual lottery, which has been a holiday tradition in the country since 1812, offers the largest pool of total lottery prize money in the world, The Associated Press reports. The top prize, called El Gordo (“the Fat One”), was about $470,000 this year, and smaller amounts will be distributed to other winners.
The lottery system is complex, and prizes are usually shared among a large number of people. Each ticket costs about $237, so families, friends and co-workers tend to invest together. A $24 décimo, which amounts to about one-tenth of a ticket, is particularly popular.
Each ticket comes with a five-digit number. Sellers are assigned specific numbers they can use, and each number can be repeated up to 165 times, The Local reports. That means that it’s common for many people from the same town to win all at once ― since they’ve often bought tickets from the same seller.
The winning number this year was 71198, children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school announced on national television Friday morning. Several winning tickets were sold in Vilalba, in northwest Spain, according to the BBC. The city of Malaga in southern Spain was also a big winner.
About 70 percent of Spaniards between the ages of 18 and 75 play the Christmas lottery. Many queue up in long lines outside their favorite lottery booths, while some travel to different cities to play a specific number.
The annual tradition has been unbroken for over two centuries ― not even stopping during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s or during the rule of the dictator Francisco Franco.