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Madrid students bring joy — and money — to people all over Spain

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Last night on a central street in Madrid, Spain, there was a long line of people.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

SUMMERS: Dona Manolita is a well-known location to buy lottery tickets all year long. But yesterday was special.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It was the eve of the famous Spanish Christmas lottery, which dates back to 1812. People from all over the world lined up for their final chance to get a ticket 20 euros apiece at a place that claims to bring good luck to its customers.

SUMMERS: Folks there told us how they choose their sequence of numbers...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Speaking Spanish).

SUMMERS: ...And all sorts of dreams for the cash they hope to win.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Speaking Spanish).

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Singing in Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Singing in Spanish).

KELLY: And then on the morning of December 22, millions of Spaniards around the country tune in around 9 a.m.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Singing in Spanish).

SUMMERS: What they see and hear are students from this one school in Madrid start drawing lottery numbers at a theater packed with members of the press and an anxious audience.

KELLY: Yeah, this is a whole event. Small balls with lottery numbers are entered into one big spinning drum.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Singing in Spanish).

(SOUNDBITE OF LOTTERY BALLS RUSTLING)

SUMMERS: And small balls with different prize amounts are entered in the other drum.

KELLY: Then the students proceed to draw one number at a time, and they pair it with one prize at a time.

SUMMERS: Over and over and over again.

KELLY: All morning long. And this is heard on every radio station, every TV channel, in every store, even at construction sites.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Singing in Spanish).

SUMMERS: Until...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Singing in Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Singing in Spanish).

KELLY: Until El Gordo, the big prize, is drawn at random. And people go crazy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: (Speaking Spanish).

SUMMERS: El Gordo awards 400,000 euros per winning ticket. And we say per ticket because there is not a single winner.

KELLY: Yeah, that's the beauty of this draw. Many tickets with the same number are sold, sometimes at different locations across the country. And there are also second- and third- and fourth-place prizes for a total of more than 2.5 billion euros.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in Spanish).

SUMMERS: This morning in the center of the Spanish city of Seville, one lottery-selling location was a party.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in Spanish).

KELLY: On the day of the Christmas lottery, even the stores that sell winning tickets - they celebrate. The Seville employees of El Gato Negro celebrated with cava that they had sold El Gordo.

SUMMERS: The place was packed with members of the press and curious bystanders, some of them perhaps regretting their decision not to buy at El Gato Negro this year.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: (Speaking Spanish).

SUMMERS: So on this December 22, we salute the millions of people who did not win the lottery but enjoyed this day full of tradition, festivities and hope.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL TAMBORILERO")

RAPHAEL: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miguel Macias
Miguel Macias is a Senior Producer at All Things Considered, where he is proud to work with a top-notch team to shape the content of the daily show.
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.