When it comes to ancient games of chance, few stretch as far back as lotteries. This tradition can be traced all the way back to 187BC Han dynasty China, or even to the early Roman Empire when social events often included random draws. Indeed, many historians believe that Augustus Caesar even held lotteries at dinner parties to keep his guests entertained.
Of course, lotteries today are held on much larger scales from village draws to lotteries that cover entire continents. This does not mean that lotteries are not part of many traditions around the world, however, as there are still plenty of customs based on the luck of the draw. Today, we thought we’d explore three of these traditions:
Spain – El Gordo
How could we possibly talk about lottery and chance based traditions without mentioning Spain’s Christmas Lottery? On December 22 each year, Spaniards gather together to partake in the world’s largest lottery – El Gordo. This annual tradition is so popular that you can already place bets on this year’s draw at specialist online sites such as Lottoland, home to a number of games including brand new international lotteries that will hopefully pick up their own traditions as time goes on.
In the operator’s WorldMillions, rather than an individual draw, players are actually betting on a combination of two national lotteries: the first four digits are taken from Germany’s Plus5, while the last four come from Austria’s ToiToiToi.
As so many people enjoy taking part in this momentous event, there are plenty of myths and superstitions surrounding El Gordo. For example, people believe that rubbing a lottery ticket on a pregnant woman’s belly, a balding man’s head or on a cat’s back will ensure it is a winning ticket. Meanwhile, in Galicia over in the north west of Spain, tickets are hung from horseshoes and some even ensure their tickets are close to a statue of the Virgin Mary for luck.
Brazil – Dia dos Namorados
While most countries in the Western hemisphere tend to celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14, Brazil celebrates their Day of Lovers on June 12. Plus, as if that wasn’t unusual enough, they have also managed to include a lottery-esque game in their fun.
On Dia dos Namorados eve, single women who wish to participate write the names of their crushes on pieces of paper, fold them up and place them in a pile. On the actual day of Dia dos Namorados, they return to pick a piece of paper and whomever they pick is supposed to be the person they marry. This seems pretty risky, but we assume that the ladies are allowed to pass up the opportunity if they don’t like their fella or can just go on a few dates before actually having to marry them.
France – La Loterie de l’Amour
Like Brazil’s Dia dos Namorados, the now banned French tradition La Loterie de l’Amour was created to encourage romance based on chance. Literally translated to mean The Love Lottery, La Loterie de l‘Amour required single people to enter two houses that were opposite each other. The singletons would then shout names through the windows until each of them was paired off with another.
However, things got a little tricky after this, as if a man did not like his partner by midday, he was well within his rights to abandon her. This led to many scorned women building bonfires and burning images of the men whilst cursing their names and verbally abusing them. When this all became a little bit too much, the French government banned the custom and to this day La Loterie de l’Amour is an illegal practice.
It appears that lotteries are used as social bonding tools all around the world, as perhaps placing our fate in the throws of luck and lotteries is far more fun and easy than the alternative. So, next time you partake in a lottery, maybe you’ll want to try rubbing your ticket on a bald man’s head for luck – but don’t start any bonfires or you could get in trouble.