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Passing the Paschal Lamb Tradition from Generation to Generation

BOSTON – Elias Manolis of Dracut, Massachusetts is a young successful businessman and philanthropist walking in the footsteps of his parents, Nikos and Voula Manolis. Elias and his wife Elena are faithful and dedicated Greek Orthodox Christians who admire and keep the traditions and customs of Orthodoxy and Hellenism.

Elias spoke to The National Herald about the tradition of the Paschal ‘ovelia’ (Easter Roasted Lamb) and how he learned to prepare and roast it from a very young age through his grandfather Efthimios and his father Nicholas. He explained in detail the secrets of good preparation and good roasting. This year they had at their home about 35 guests for dinner who enjoyed Elias’s roasted lamb.

He also spoke about the Church in America and his complete confidence that Archbishop Elpidophoros will rebuild the Archdiocese and give the opportunity to younger generations to become more actively involved.

The interview with Elias Manolis follows:

TNH: I see that you continue the tradition of the ‘ovelia’. Why it is important to keep our traditions?

Elias Manolis: The tradition of the Easter lamb was passed on from my Pappou, I honestly cannot remember an Easter when we did not cook a whole lamb. It's so important to keep our tradition alive to pass it on to further generations. Our traditions are so important and if not treated as such we can easily lose them. I am so grateful my Pappou and Baba passed this on to me.

TNH: Please walk us through the preparation from the moment you order the lamb. Do you purchase it from a specific store or farm – and what do you do to it?

EM: We order the lamb from a local farm. As far as the preparation, we still use my Pappou's recipe, a simple rub of salt, pepper, and oregano.  We also fill the cavity with garlic and fresh herbs. Then we sew it closed and it's ready for the souvla. While it is roasting we baste it with butter and lemon juice.

TNH: What is the secret of good preparation and good roasting?

EM: The secret is to roast the lamb with low heat and slow at the beginning and add more coals towards the end of the cooking to crisp the outside. That produces the juiciest lamb.

TNH: How long does it take you to prepare it and how many hours are required for the roasting?

EM: It takes around an hour to prep and season the lamb, one of the most important things is securing the lamb to the souvla. It is a necessity for an even cooking. Cooking time is about 5-6 hours depending on the size. My Pappou and my Baba taught me all of these traditions when I was young. I cherish all the memories of preparing the lamb with my Papou when he was still alive.

TNH: Tell us about the role of the Church in your life – are you involved in the Church?

EM: Absolutely, my family and I are very devout Orthodox Christians. I am involved, but not as I'd like to be. It was great to be back at Church this year for Holy Week since we could not attend last year because of the pandemic. But there are some issues with the Church that need to be addressed and I have faith in our Archbishop Elpidophoros. I believe that with his guidance and the new charter he will fix the Church and help build it back up. We need to engage the youth and get them more involved.

TNH: What keeps you from getting more involved in the Church?

EM: I believe our current system with metropolises is broken and is in desperate need of repair. I am more than confident that our Archbishop Elpidophoros will take the appropriate steps to grow the Church. I understand Metropolitan Methodios was suspended – I personally believe his punishment wasn't adequate. It is time to elevate others into higher positions in the Church and not allow metropolitans to stay in power indefinitely. 

This is a critical year for the Church … I am confident and overjoyed about the future. I know the new charter will bring the structure the Church needs and we are very excited that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will visit the United States and along with our Archbishop Elpidophoros he will open our long-awaited St Nicholas in NYC.

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