Spaniards affectionately call them the niños de la suerte – luck's children – and each year since 1771 the pupils of San Ildefonso school in Madrid, formerly an orphanage, have sung out the winning numbers of Spain's traditional Christmas lottery. They are the humble heroes of the world's oldest and richest draw, known as "El Gordo" – the Fat One – now televised nationally with a €2.32bn pot.
But one 13-year-old boy, Brandon Cabrera, who last year sang out the top prize number (32,365) to the usual sweet-but-monotonous tune, has dared to depart from the script of selfless Christmas singing on the part of the San Ildefonso students. In an interview with the national daily El Mundo yesterday, Brandon admitted he was disappointed he had not received even one small gift of gratitude from any of the hundreds of people in Spain who held a top-prize ticket, worth a total of €384m (£347m).
"The truth is I had dreamt dozens of times of singing El Gordo and it was like I imagined except for one thing: I dreamed that [the winners] gave me lots of gifts, but I didn't get any," he said. "I guess they gave me thanks, and that's it."
To some people in Spain, Brandon's confession offers a prime opportunity to give a moral lecture on the Christmas spirit and the importance of not seeking any reward for good deeds done. But the director of the children's choir, Juan Campos, sees a Dickensian tale of Scrooge-like stinginess here. "They should remember the children, and the school, because the children are very excited to sing El Gordo and, they could receive at least a token in exchange," he said.