updated 12/22/2009 9:16:17 AM ET 2009-12-22T14:16:17

The top prize of Spain's Christmas lottery — billed as among the world's richest — was won Tuesday 1,950 people.

The winning numbers were 78294 and each holder stands to win $430,000. Organizers said the tickets bearing that number were sold in a Madrid city center lottery office.

Thousands of other people won smaller prizes in the lottery known as "El Gordo" (The Fat One) that is held each year on Dec. 22. The lottery dishes out euro2.32 billion ($3.33 billion) in prize money.

The numbers were drawn by pupils of Madrid's Saint Ildefonso School in a nationally televised draw.

Although other lotteries have bigger individual top prizes, the Gordo is ranked as the world's richest for the total sum paid out. Rather than a single jackpot, the lottery aims for a share-out in which thousands of numbers yield at least some prize money.

Holiday tradition
The Gordo is a favorite holiday tradition in Spain. Excitement builds up for weeks before the draw as workers and relatives pitch in to buy tickets while clubs, shops and bars sell shares in their tickets to clients.

The lottery starts at 9 a.m. (0300 ET) and people throughout the country typically turn on the radio, television or Internet to find out if their numbers are called for a prize.

This year, it sold an estimated euro2.7 billion euros nationwide — nearly 3 percent down on last year, the state lottery agency said.

The agency estimates per-capita spending of some euro60 ($86) on the Gordo this year.

Seventy percent of lottery sales goes out in prizes, and 30 percent goes to the state.

Spain established its national lottery system as a charity in 1763, but its objective gradually shifted toward filling state coffers.

Spain holds another big lottery Jan. 6 to mark the Feast of the Epiphany. It is known as "El Nino" (The Child), in reference to the baby Jesus.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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