The 4th of July,
Cinco de Mayo...
Holidays often commemorate the start, end, or bloodiest day of a violent war.
What about Chanukah, which starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev? What clash against our foes—the Syrian Greeks and Hellenized Jews—was won by the Maccabees that day?
The truth is, on the 25th of Kislev, no battles were won. No treaties were signed. No buildings were stormed. It is actually the day AFTER a battle was won (the battle for control of the Temple). It was the first day we returned to business-as-usual in the Temple, rededicating resources towards peacetime goals.
That is why the holiday is called “Chanukah,” a word which means “dedication”, and is also an abbreviation of “Chanu Chof Hey,” which means “They rested on the 25th.”
When our sages created Chanukah, they didn’t want us to celebrate war. They wanted us to be inspired to celebrate living, hopefully in peace, dedicated to the Jewish ideals we know are worth fighting for.