“El Niño” (“The Child” in Spanish), is a special draw organized by the Spanish National Lottery each 6th of January, which has always been closely linked to the figure of the youngest, and this is perhaps the reason why again this year it will be so generous with its prizes, and distribute even more winnings than usual.
As it happens with the Spanish Christmas lottery, also in the El Niño lottery draw the children of San Ildefonso College of Madrid are the ones who draw and “sing” the numbers. But in this special draw, which is the first of the year, also the name is directly linked to the purity of childhood.
The origin of the name remains unclear, as does the game itself, yet it is strongly rooted in popular tradition. According to a study by researcher Gabriel Medina Vilchez, the origins of this lottery go back to the late nineteenth century and the initiative of the Duchess of Santoña, an aristocrat from Granada. This lady asked for and obtained the permission to celebrate a popular raffle to fund the construction of a children’s hospital in Madrid. The draw, which can be tracked since 1941, however, has been officially recognized as “El Niño” in 1966.
Other interpretations explain the choice of the name by the proximity of the draw with biblical dates of the Adoration of Jesus by the Magi, or Wise Man. In fact, in Spain Santa Claus has been introduced in the last years, while traditionally Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior are the ones who bring the presents to Spanish children on the 6th of January, the day of Epiphany.
According to traditions and superstition, the El Niño draw date, which was changed in 1999, and moved from 5th to 6th January, is closely related to childhood also because often the Spanish parents ask their small children to choose the number of El Niño. Therefore, it’s the voice of innocence that guides Lady Luck during the second most important and traditional draw in Spain, and this is maybe also the reason why it is the most generous lottery of the year in distributing prizes.
Indeed this year El Niño will be even more lavish than ever, with 2,120 more prices per “series” than last year, for a total of € 560 million in prizes.
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