Whenever the urge to reminisce about the holidays strikes, I recall the velvety creaminess of homemade eggnog, the heady scent of not-so-neatly cut gingerbread men and an assortment of hopelessly scraggly and, yes, rather-ugly-but-definitely-unique Christmas trees.

Then I see flour, clouds and clouds of it, and that vision elbows every other memory aside.

Flour makes me think of pyrohy. My family’s Christmas Eve feast was all about the ubiquitous dumpling — platters and platters of the plump creatures. You couldn’t wander an inch without a pyrohy invading your field of vision. There were trays of pyrohy patiently waiting to be cooked, their pillow-y soft bodies all lined up in neat and tidy little rows, covering almost every surface imaginable.

There were dishes of piping hot crescents being passed from one eager hand to another, there were half-eaten lukewarm ones littering everyone’s plates. There were heaps of leftover orphan dumplings dotting the kitchen counters.

These pyrohy were all homemade, by us — my mother and assorted configurations of the four sisters. The exact make-up of our pyrohy-making crew changed yearly, depending on who happened to be doing what, but mostly it depended on who could think up the most convincing excuse to vacate the premises.

My mom, having been raised as a good Ukrainian farm-girl, did not know how to make a few. Nope, anything fewer than a gazillion was simply inconceivable. Making pyrohy was a day-long, all-out pyrohy fest. And we did make a gazillion, or so it seemed — all on Christmas Eve. That was simply how it was done. I don’t even think my mom knows why we did it that way. We just did.

My mom, the official pyrohy master, reigned supreme. Huge bags of flour took up residence on the kitchen table. She made the dough, she made the filling (always, always cottage cheese), and she rolled out and cut the dough. Then she made more dough, more filling, then tackled more rolling and cutting. We, her small but relatively efficient little pyrohy-making army, did as we were told. We were her pyrohy-filling and -pinching minions. We stood, we filled, we pinched. Over and over again.

As the day wore on, her pace became more frantic. The dough cutting became more haphazard — flash, flash, flash, mounds of dough were instantly transformed into a multitude of vastly different-sized squares, rectangles and even triangles. No uniform and easy-to-pinch-shut circles ever made an appearance in our kitchen, thank you very much.

I remember two huge pots of water on the stove — at least one of them always had a mass of pyrohy swimming in it — the condensation from all of that boiling water running down our windows. My mom’s face, beet red by now, and deadly serious.

I remember filling my plate with countless pyrohy, and the sauce I ladled lavishly — onions sautéed in copious amounts of butter.

I don’t remember my mom sitting down, ever.

And I remember the flour. How it sifted from the top of the fridge to the rim of the kitchen windowsill to the little holes in the salt and pepper shakers. How it took up residence with the knives in the cutlery drawer. How it playfully lodged itself in my mother’s hair and on her eyebrows and even in her wrinkles. How it managed to leave a light dusting on my pillow, like a little reminder just in case my exhaustion threatened to erase the memory of the day.

As if that would have happened – the day was unforgettable.

Today platters of the dumplings still dominate my table whenever Christmas Eve is celebrated at our house. We prefer potato/cheddar filled and a lovely round biscuit cutter makes the whole filling and pinching process manageable. I never make them on Christmas Eve. A few quiet nights in November suit me just fine.

But the flour still flies. Even in our snow-challenged years, my home will always be blessed with a white Christmas.

Jan Hostyn

Jan Hostyn’s pyrohy are always perfect ovals.