We all know the generic and basic story of Chanukah and why we celebrate it on the 25th of Kislev. We learn it in kindergarten, that the Maccabiim were few and the Greeks were many and in miracles of miracles the Maccabiim defeat the Greeks and restore the Second Temple. When restoring the Temple the Maccabiim could not find pure oil to light the menorah except for a small pitcher that would barely last a night but ended up lasting 8 days, starting on the 25th of Kislev. Hence, we celebrate Chanukah from the 25th of Kislev for 8 days.
The above is definitely part of the story, but to say it is the reason of why we celebrate Chanukah on this date to me always seemed quite arbitrary. We know from history and more specifically the Book of the Maccabi’s that the Maccabiim started to restore the Second Temple and to rid of all the idols and impurity created by the Greeks, well before the 25th of Kislev. There seems to be a purpose to the date.
I heard a great short speech (I do not know the guys name; sorry) which can shed some light on the question of why the 25th of Kislev.
If you look below in Maccabiim A ( (מקבים א I highlighted the line אשר טמאו אותו הגיום meaning that the Maccabiim decided to dedicate the return of the Second Temple specifically on the 25th of Kislev because that is when the Goyiim unpurified the Temple, specifically on the 25th of Kislev.
ויהי ביום החמישי ועשרים לחדש התשיעי הוא כסלו, בשנת שמונה וארבעים ומאה, וישכימו בבוקר ויעלו עולות על המזבח החדש כמשפט. ויחנכו את המזבח בעצם היום אשר טמאו אותו הגויים, ויהללו לה’ בשירים ובכינורות בחלילים ובמצלצלים,”
This already sheds some light on why the 25th of Kislev would be significant for the Maccabiim to return the Second Temple on that date as it symbolizes the rebirth and is a powerful message to the Greeks.
With more digging it would seem that actually there is more to it, as the Greeks themselves specifically made the Temple impure on the 25th of Kislev. As we know (it is discussed in the Prophet Hagi) that our return to the haychal of the Second Temple was done on the 25th of Kislev, therefore the Greeks specifically wanted to bring in their idols to the Second Temple on the day which we celebrates its inception.
Now we see that the 25th of Kislev actually has a strong significance with the Jewish Nation throughout our history. However, there is possibly even more to this time of year.
In the Gemara Ovadah Zara on Daf 8A (8 and Chanukah J) There is a Mishna which describes the different Roman holidays which the Jews should be careful not to be seen celebrating or we should refrain from certain activities specifically on those days.
One of the holidays mentioned is a Holiday called Calanda. The Gemara goes on to explain what is the holiday Calanda, (sounds like our Calendar) which celebrates the new year, by taking the shortest day of the year (somewhere between December 21-23 in the Northern Hemisphere) and counting 8 days and on the 8th day they would celebrate the New Year. This sounds very much like the modern day New Years which in modern times has formed into a Christian Holiday.
The Gemara goes on to explain that the Romans actually got the idea for this holiday from Adam (the first man). As the story goes Adam (and Chava) was in the first year of the world’s creation and from Tishrei through Tevet everyday kept getting darker earlier and earlier. Adam and Chava began to get nervous that the world was coming to an end. Adam then fasted for 8 days and at the end of the 8th day the days began to get longer again and he realized this was just the natural process of the world and he rejoiced.
So we see that actually this time of year (although this year was very early) we see a connection between the 8 days of Chanukah celebrating the lights and Adam celebrating the lights as he came to realize the natural progression of the seasons. But it is more than that as we are truly celebrating our Amunah in Hashem just as we believe that with each change in Season there will still be light so too we need to do our Hashgacga pratit and show our belief in Hashem. Just as the Maccabiim showed their unrelenting Amunah in Hashem to guard the Torah and Mitzvot and know with full Bitichon that Hashem will provide. It is easy to “know” that every morning the sun will rise but let us not forget that everything is in Hashem’s hands and therefore we should always believe but never to take for granted.