In the days before online dating, telephones, and even the combustion engine, townsfolk had to get creative in order to find a mate.
And Alozaina, a quaint hilltop village nestled in the Sierra de las Nieves, definitely won first prize in the fun and creativity stakes with their solution to the problem – the Carnaval de la Harina.
This rather unique and intriguing tradition was dreamt up by the enterprising and lovelorn residents in the latter half of the 15th century.
It grew in such popularity that other townsfolk would come from all over Andalucia to participate.
Bachelors keen to find their bride could forsake the old traditional methods – you know, doing something brave, coming up with a good chat up line, buying flowers – and just throw flour in the face of the comely lass who took their eye.
If the young lady in question returned the favour and rubbed flour on the cheek of her suitor, they would begin a courtship. Simple.
A sprinkling of flour in the name of love takes the idea of a romantic pursuit to a whole new level.
Today, of course, the villagers use more modern methods of dating.
But they haven’t lost sight of the long-standing tradition, continuing to celebrate the unique custom with a village-wide flour fight on the last Friday in February – along with an all-night party.
Among all of Spain’s wild and varied festivals, from being chased by raging bulls to tomato throwing extravaganzas, this one still stands out.
The Olive Press’ invitation to witness it first hand came with few instructions, only that we would probably ruin our jackets and have flour coming out of our ears for days.
The festivities begin at around 9pm when everyone congregates in a marquee with bags of flour hanging from their belt loops and friendly – yet somehow menacing – smiles on their faces.
Those attempting to enter flourless were quickly disabused of this notion by some teenager who would bound up and smother it on each cheek.
In fact, flour was raining down from all directions; ruffled through hair, poured into coat hoods, dumped down necks and simply chucked from a metre away. There was no escape.
Although not the primary purpose of the festival, most people were clad in impressive fancy dress costumes ranging from cow onesies to my personal favourite, a Martian with glow in the dark glasses and silver locks.
On later inspection, this particular character turned out to be none other than the deputy mayor of the village, Maria-Jose.
Everyone had shown up for the party, with toddlers scuttling around, youngsters bopping to the dj and adults dusting flour off their cervezas.
The community spirit was palpable – people greeted each-other with handfuls of flour while big smiles stretched across each whitened face.
As the evening went on, the roads resembled a baker’s board and the soles of shoes looked as though they had trudged through a tub of icing sugar.
No wonder most bars and shops were shuttered up for the night!
Around midnight, the cart laden with flour made an appearance.
It was being wheeled through the crowd by jovial partygoers dressed in traditional garb, inviting those who dared to take a lie down in 50 kilos of the stuff.
This was for the hardcore flour enthusiasts, no piece of clothing or body part to be spared. As the gargantuan metal bath headed towards me, I looked over at my colleague – I was going in. This reporter’s leather jacket had already turned grey from its original black, and I realised I was committed to this now – in for a penny and all that.
So I did the only thing left to do – I leapt into the tub with my sunglasses shielding the downpour of flour.
After being carted around for a few moments, I managed to extract myself, a few kilos heavier as every pocket and crevice was now overflowing with flour.
A few minutes of enthusiastic dancing later, however, and I had managed to successfully dump the excess flour off my hair, face, glasses and jacket – mostly onto my fellow flour lovers.