FOR many Spaniards it marks the beginning of Christmas.

But the government has unveiled plans to partially privatise the world-famous El Gordo – or fat one – Christmas lottery.

As the country desperately tries to avoid a debt bailout Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero, announced 30 per cent of the lottery would be sold to investors as part of a plan to get Spain back on a secure footing.

The sale is expected to raise in the region of five billion euros.

And it means the private sector will now see a share of the profits.

The lottery has ushered in the Spanish Christmas season for almost two centuries since 1812.

And last year Spaniards spent an average of 75 euros a head on El Gordo in the hopes of taking home the millionaire prize.