Around this time of year, families gather together to celebrate a great day in the history of our country. I'm talking, of course, about November 20: Traffic Light Day.

From the time when autumn coaxes the leaves from their arboreal summer residences and we are plunged back into the infinite darkness of Standard Time, I find myself reminiscing about Traffic Light Days past and eagerly anticipating this year's celebration.

It really gives you pause, thinking about how we celebrate historical events, which may have seemed inconsequential at the time, so long after they have faded into the past. We all know the history of Traffic Light Day: how Garrett Morgan?"Ole Blinky," as we all affectionately know him?patented a design of the traffic light?which was operated by hand-crank?on November 20, 1923. But while many believe that Ole Blinky invented the auto-traffic semaphore, we insiders know that he wasn't even the first to patent it!

Way back in December of 1868, British railway engineer J.P. Knight had gas-lantern traffic signals installed outside British Parliament. Rumor has it that he did this to help guide the drunken Lords Temporal from area pubs to the Parliament building, much like a lighthouse ushers wayward ships into port through a deep haze. The signal exploded after a year, causing a brief but influential populist movement when the only politicians to show up for legislative sessions were the Commoners.

The first American traffic light was introduced in Salt Lake City in 1912 by policeman Lester Wire. As the legend goes, the innovation briefly alleviated traffic concerns before being condemned as sorcery by the city's Mormon population. City residents also resented its implicit allusion to the city's infamous red-light district, whose lascivious courtesans had been expelled only a year earlier.

Every family does it differently, I guess, but we have a few Traffic Light Day traditions in the old Kolowich household. We'll wake up in the morning to the smell of the customary green, yellow, and red "Semapheast" roasting in the oven. This traditional culinary treat consists of three parts: at the bottom of the arrangement, spinach and kale; in the middle, corn, polenta, and yellow rice; and at the top, blood-red roast beef.

That's right, friends, it's cleverly designed to resemble a traffic light. I can't believe you've never heard of this. Traffic Light Day break must be so boring for you.

Not only does the succulent dish look like a traffic light, but it requires that you treat it like a traffic light as well as you eat it.

You see, you start eating at the bottom. The healthy greens?with their vitamin A, iron, and potassium?will give you the energy to GO, as in continue eating. The dietary fiber absorbed during this part of the meal will also cause you to GO, as in urgently need to use the restroom later on, or oblige you to GO into another room to avoid subjecting the rest of the family to your suffocating flatulence.

Quickly, you'll arrive at the yellow middle. The rice and corn will supply you with the carbohydrates you need to SPEED UP if you're a risk-taker, but at the same time, they will fill your stomach in a hurry, so you might think it wiser to SLOW DOWN and be cautious. This might elicit loud honks from those behind you, but these are probably just early effects of that fiber-rich first course.

Finally, you'll reach the rare, red roast beef course. If you are wise, you will choose to STOP shortly after tucking in. In years past, some members of my family have attempted to speed through this treacherous final course. More often than not, they are sideswiped by a rush of nausea, causing them to break down and spew fluids all over the place. A tip: always bring road flares to Traffic Light Day dinner.

After dinner, my family and I usually set up lawns chairs down at the old intersection, "Oooooo"-ing and "Ahhhhh"-ing as we watch the lights change. It's quite an impressive display.

Traffic Light Day gives us a chance to reflect on our history and give thanks for what we have: an automobile culture regulated by automated traffic semaphores. So as you sit down to your Semapheasts next week, remember William Bradford and his band of pilgrim pioneers, and how they had to survive without traffic lights (or Traffic Light Day).

And give thanks.