The total winnings in Spain's Christmas lottery this year totaled more than $3 billion and the year's most anticipated and popular national raffle will certainly help to alleviate the circumstances of many families adversely affected by the country's economic crisis.
Starting at 9 a.m. and for the next four hours in a live television broadcast, the children from Madrid's San Ildefonso school - as is traditional - called out the lottery prize numbers, the drawing for which was held in the capital's Royal Theater for the second consecutive year.
"El Gordo" (The Fat One) - as the top winning number combination is popularly known - was 62246 this year and was announced by Joel Fernandez, an 11-year-old of Peruvian origin, along with Andrea Leon of Guevara.
The lucky winners of the top prize will take home 4 million euros ($5.5 million) if they bought a complete series of tickets costing 200 euros ($275), although people normally buy tenths of a ticket series - whereby they would win 400,000 euros ($550,000) - or split ticket shares among workmates, friends or relatives.
Joel is one of the 40 children between ages 9 and 13 from San Ildefonso, many of whom are of Latin American origin, who participated in this year's Christmas lottery.
The winning number combination was sold in many locations across 10 Spanish provinces, although the largest number of winning tickets were sold in the working class town of Leganes, near Madrid.
The second-biggest prize - 125,000 euros ($170,000) - went to number 79712, all the tickets for which were sold in Granadilla de Abona, on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
The Christmas lottery, the drawing for which is held every December 22, marks the beginning of the holiday celebrations and engenders great anticipation among the public, as demonstrated by the presence of more than 85 national and international media teams accredited to report on the event.
This year, lottery sales slacked off by 4.18 percent compared to 2012, although revenues totaled 2.362 billion euros ($3.23 billion), of which 70 percent is distributed in winnings, according to the national lottery and betting authorities.
The decline in ticket sales can be ascribed to the economic crisis and the fact that this year, for the first time, lottery winners will have to pay 20 percent of their prize money in taxes if it exceeds 2,500 euros ($3,400).
The Spanish Christmas lottery has been held every year since 1812 and currently ranks as the world's richest in terms of winnings paid out. EFE