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Today we head to sunny Spain to hear a little about their traditions.I wrote about the connection between Spain and the Netherlands, and how in some traditions Santa is from Spain. Or Lapland. If I were Santa, I’d pick Spain.

Santa, however, is not the focus of my story today. When I began this project, I wrote to some of my favorite friends and colleagues for help. I spend time all over Europe, but I was hoping for a local look at the holidays, or perhaps off-beat traditions that my readers are not familiar with.

The first person I thought to contact is my friend and colleague Francisco Gloria Baines. He lives in the Basque region of Spain and is a great storyteller. His response to my question about Christmas in Spain took me by surprise. I thought he’d write about Christmas oranges or Christmas Flamenco, but instead he wrote about the lottery!

Here is his note:

Hola Sarah: Here in Spain Christmas starts on December 22nd. It is the day Spain plays national Christmas lottery. I know it sounds strange, but every year (since 1811) we have this tradition. They start selling the tickets in June and it is the perfect gift for your in laws when you go out of town and need to bring them something. In many companies, the boss will give you a lottery ticket as a Christmas gift.

The lottery is broadcasted life on TV and radios for 5 hours…The sound of the children given the prices is very peculiar and all of spaniards recognize it as Christmas. No matter where you go (super markets, coffee shops, dentist, etc….) you will hear the sound of it. I personally don’t play lottery at all, but I love the sound of it and I put it as the soundtrack of the day. It is the sound of Christmas.

Every body waits to see the TV spot that they start playing on tv one month before the 22nd. It is always very heart warming, and makes everybody cry. This year is about a school teacher in a small fisherman village who has memory lost and she believes that she has won the jackpot, she wants to share it with everybody and everybody in the village follows along the celebrations to make her happy.

For an example of the number drawing, see the video below:

I had no idea of this Spanish tradition. In my family, we exchange lotto tickets in our stockings, but mostly as a joke. It’s no joke in Spain, with El Gordo shelling out more than 2 BILLION Euro! Last year’s winner was a whole village, and a poor one at that. The full story on 2016’s winner can be found here:

So, your Advent task today is to go to the store and buy a few lotto tickets for your family’s stockings. It’s Spanish tradition, after all.

Francisco Gloria Baines is a guide in Pamplona, Spain. He can be found running with the bulls here.


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