My parents visited England in 1981 just before the wedding of Charles and Diana, and as much as they always loved London (and Paris and Amsterdam and Zurich… my father had a lot of frequent flyer miles working for IBM), they especially got a kick out of being there for all the pre-event hoopla. They brought back several typical Royal Wedding souvenirs partially for the kitsch factor but also to remember a lovely trip, The one I remember most was a box of matches emblazoned with the standard portrait of the couple in an oval plus banner with the date of the wedding. And what I remember about it is that it lasted for years and years, even though we used matches every week to light the sabbath candles. That was my job, to set up the candles. I’d put the two big candlesticks in the middle of the dining room table, fill each cavity with just a bit of water to keep the melted candles from dripping down onto the tablecloth, and place the two white candles in. Occasionally… well, lots of times, if my mother was running late preparing for the sabbath, I’d light the candles for her and then she’d just have to say the blessing.
An aside about that. It’s a conundrum, saying the blessing over the candles before sabbath. In all of Judaism, you always say the blessing before doing the thing. The blessing for bread, then bread. The blessing for the wine, then the wine. But lighting candles involves starting a fire and you’re not allowed to do that on the sabbath. Once you say the blessing on the candles, the sabbath has started, and so then how are you supposed to light a fire? It’s like an Escher painting, when you try to think about it. So what you do is, you light the candles, then you cover your eyes so you can’t see them, and then you say the blessing, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the sabbath.” Then you uncover your eyes and suddenly, they’re lit. It’s like a miracle!
Anyway, since you can’t actually light the candles after sunset, sometimes I’d have to do that while my mother ran around (like a chicken with its head cut off, to use her expression) finishing cooking and cleaning and dressing, and then, just a bit late, she’d cover her eyes and say the blessing. But we almost never used the Charles & Di matches, even though they were on the top shelf of the cupboard. You’d use the red and blue safety matches, because, well, those didn’t symbolize a happy time in a country where everyone was excited. I wish the people in England a happy year of excitement and I wish William & Kate a happy marriage. May it last as long as the box of matches and then some.