The Spanish Christmas Lottery, one of the oldest lotteries in the world and by far the richest, just paid out an estimated $3.4 billion (€2.5 billion) in Christmas cash to thousands of Spain’s residents who have been enduring a brutal financial crisis recently. The unemployment rate is hovering around 26%, but even so, nearly everyone in Spain purchases at least one ticket in the famous Christmas lottery. That means that most of the 46 million people living there were probably watching the four-hour TV showing of the live event which is easily the most festive and participatory in the history of lotteries.

Singing schoolchildren call out the lucky numbers which are drawn throughout this incredibly unique lottery. While there are multiple chances to win, the El Gordo (Spanish for “fat one” or “big one”) drawing provides the largest opportunity for instant wealth. The El Gordo jackpot this year dealt out $546,200 (€400,000) per ticket, with the second richest number in the lottery delivering $170,700 (€125,000). The $3.4 billion awarded in prize money was distributed to thousands of ticket-holders, delivering a much needed yuletide cash-boost for the country as well as Spain’s citizens. For the first time ever, taxes claim approximately 20% of any Spanish Christmas Lottery individual winnings of $3,400 (€2,500) or higher. This will deliver hundreds of million dollars to Spain’s economy, which is in desperate straits currently.

The winning El Gordo tickets drawn for this year’s Spanish Christmas Lottery were purchased in at least eight different locations throughout the country. Some winning players have decided to remain anonymous at this point, but lucky windfall recipients in Madrid, Barcelona and Modragon have already come forth to stake a claim for their portion of El Gordo Christmas cash. Modragon is located in the northern part of the country, an industrial city where a huge electrical appliance manufacturer, Fagor Electrodomesticos, filed for bankruptcy in October, laying off a substantial number of the city’s residents.

One El Gordo winner, 27-year-old Raul Clavero, is a mechanic in the Madrid suburb of Leganes. He said he had been lazily napping while watching the drawing on television in bed. He said that when he realized he won, “We jumped out of bed and ran out” to officially file his lottery claim. He plans to pay the mortgage on his house first and then “just enjoy the rest.” Incredibly, four other members of his family purchased the same number ticket, meaning that the five Clavero clan members are each now $546,200 richer. For years there has been a clamoring in the United States by lottery players for their states to adopt the Spanish Christmas Lottery jackpot payout schedule, awarding several people substantial amounts of money, rather than giving an enormous amount of money to just one or two people.

This strategy would no doubt attract even more money than the already profitable Powerball and Mega Millions take in on a regular basis. For example, the largest Powerball jackpot winner of all time was 84-year-old Gloria Mackenzie, who won approximately $590.5 million in May of 2013. She elected for a one-time payment of $370.8 million, meaning that this most recent Spanish Christmas Lottery paid out nearly six times as much money as the best-ever Powerball effort.

Another Spanish winner was Jesus Lorente, who attended the live drawing, cashing in on $170,700 as a second-place El Gordo winner. If you do not live in Spain, you can still take part in the largest lottery in the world. There are many websites which will purchase your tickets to the Spanish Christmas Lottery, USA lotteries such as Powerball and Mega Millions, as well as dozens of other national lotteries around the world, on your behalf. The physical tickets are then scanned and the images sent to you in an e-mail, giving you global access to possibly life-changing lotteries like El Gordo.