MADRID — Spain ground to a halt today as its 224-year-old Christmas lottery, the world's biggest, showered $745 million among winners throughout the country, including a bishop.
Radio stations suspended news bulletins, and millions of mesmerized television viewers watched as orphans spun giant drums for several hours to select hundreds of winning numbers.
This year's lottery was the richest ever, but there was no big winner.
The main prize, "el Gordo" (the Fat One), was shared among hundreds, including the bishop of Majorca who won $72,000.
El Gordo, worth $2.2 million, went mostly to the Mediterranean city of Alicante.
Children of the San Ildefonso orphanage ritually sang the numbers and the prizes in the draw at the headquarters of the National Lottery.
Spain's 38 million people for the first time spent more than $909 million, a staggering $25 per head, on Christmas lottery tickets.
A ticket cost $227, but most split the expense with friends or colleagues. Many people buy tickets as presents for relatives. Some employers give tickets to staff in lieu of raises.