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Matchboxes and Holders Guide

Fire plays a prominent role in several commandments, or Mitzvot, specifically for the lighting of candles. Consequently, matchboxes and matchbox holders became a form of Judaica art, being decorated with ornate designs and being made of expensive materials.

What are Matchboxes and Holders?

Match boxes and holders are Judaica items that hold books or boxes of matches that are used when lighting candles at the beginning of Shabbat, Hanukkah candles and to light the candle used during Havdalah at the end of Shabbat and Jewish holidays in which work is forbidden, such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot.


Match boxes and holders are usually made from a metal such as a silver, nickel or pewter or are made from wood, which may be lacquered and painted over. Unpainted wooden matchboxes are usually made from Mahogany or Maple. Matchboxes have two distinct designs. The first, more popular design, is as a simple frame into which a box of matches is placed and comes with a tray for used matches that may be engraved with text. The other design has a similar frame, but it sits atop a stem and base. Matchboxes may also vary in size and shape, appearing as boxes, as well as large three dimensional triangles.


Because match boxes and their holders are used on Hanukkah as well as at the beginning of Shabbat and Holidays when lighting candles, they typically feature decorations related to Shabbat, such as candlesticks, Kiddush Cups and Havdalah sets. Other decorations include floral patterns, Jerusalem, animals, Stars of David, the Western Wall and crowns. These decorations are engraved into metal match boxes and holders and are painted over lacquered wood. Matchboxes may also be decorated with rows of stones that echo those worn on the High Priest’s - the Kohen Gadol - breastplate that represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matchboxes are frequently engraved with text related to Shabbat, such as “Shabbat Shalom” and “Lichvod Shabbat”, which translate as the traditional Shabbat greeting “Shabbath of Peace to you” and “For the holy Sabbath”. Matchboxes may also be engraved with the text of the blessings made when lighting candles at the start of Shabbat or the text of the Havdalah ceremony. Text engravings are in Hebrew, but the font can be either traditional or modern.


Match boxes and holders can be personalized with engravings, which typically are names together with the date of an important life cycle event such as a wedding or Bat Mitzvah.

For More Information

For more information on Match Boxes and Holders, Hanukkah Candles, Menorahs, or the holiday of Hanukkah, feel free to browse through World of Judaica's Hanukkah learning page or contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.

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