It is a tradition here to carve a jack-o-lantern each Halloween. It just wouldn't be Halloween without pumpkin guts everywhere. In the early history of the British Isles turnips and rutabagas were carved into lanterns and sat on the porch to ward off evil spirits.
Our area is rich with Irish ancestry and that is exactly where the legend of the jack-o-lantern started. One version of the Irish folk tale tells of Jack who tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree. Once Jack had the Devil up in the tree he carved crosses into the bark so the Devil couldn't get back down.
Jack only agreed to let the Devil back down if he wouldn't take his soul. The Devil agreed and went back about his business. However, it seems that Jack was a thief and when he did finally pass, he didn't have to go to Hell, but wasn't good enough to get into Heaven. Thus, Jack was doomed to wander and the Devil tossed him an ember that Jack placed into a carved turnip. This allowed Jack the light to endlessly wander the earth and he then became known as, "Jack of the Lantern".
"Oh! fruit loved of boyhood! - the old days recalling,
When wood grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!"
John Greenleaf Whittier