$1.1 Billion Lottery Payout Brings Smiles to Winners Across Spain

On Sunday, an annual lottery drawing in Spain paid out an astonishing $1.1 billion in prizes to hundreds of happy winners throughout a country that has suffered from record unemployment and an extensive recession.

Winning ticket holders were found in five regions of Spain and brought a small glimmer of hope and financial relief to those hard-hit by the global downturn.

The lottery game is known as "El Nino" or "The Child" and is held annually on the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. The lottery's name refers to baby Jesus, according to the biblical tale of when the son of God was visited by three kings of Orient and all of whom came bearing gifts.

The winning tickets were sold in Alicante, Leon, Madrid, Murcia and Tenerife.

The Spanish lottery runs a bit different than it does in America, with each lottery ticket costing about $25 and the most any single ticket can win is 200,000 euros or $260,240.

The economic state of the country has hit the country hard, and new austerity measures put in place have caused great hardships among citizens throughout the country.

An exuberant crowd was outside one ticket office in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcon where several hundred people waited to collect their prizes, which according to officials, was roughly 40 million euros or $52 million.

"I am very excited because I really needed this," Josefina, who opted not to give her surname, told AP. "Now that I've won, I just think I've been very lucky."

The billion dollar payout may seem like a lot but it does not even come close to the largest lottery game in Spain known as "El Gordo" or "The Fat One." This annual game is played on Dec. 22 and last year paid out 2.5 billion euros or $3.3 billion in winnings.

The "El Nino" lottery is an official lottery run by the Spanish government and has been played since 1763, according to El Gordo.