Home Massachusetts Harriet Low Endures Easter Sunday in Macao, 1830

Harriet Low Endures Easter Sunday in Macao, 1830


Harriet Low was awakened by a spirited band in the street on Easter morning in the Portuguese colony of Macao on April 11, 1830.  As a young woman raised in a Puritan family in Salem, Mass., such Papist customs weren’t exactly to her liking.

Harriet Low

Harriet Low

Harriet Low was then 20, the daughter of shipping merchant Seth Low. In 1829, her uncle William Henry Low and his ailing wife Abigail had moved to China for five years on business. Harriet came along to keep Abigail company. William managed the China trade in Canton for one of the great American trading companies, Russell & Company, while Harriet and Abigail enjoyed a social whirl with expatriates in Macao, 60 miles away from Canton.

Two days earlier, Harriet recorded in her diary her thoughts on the Catholic celebration of Good Friday. She had seen a procession from the church carrying a coffin covered in black, ‘an image representing Our Savior,’ a woman representing his mother and two others, a fine band and flags.

It was all very solemn, she wrote, but, “I cannot think it right to perform such a ceremony. It seems horrid to me to see an image made to represent so divine a person.”

Harriet Low’s Easter

On Easter Sunday, 1830, Harriet Low wrote in her diary:

Sunday, April 11.–Was awakened from my sleep this morning by a band playing in the most spirited style. The music was fine. Another procession went from the church, and one man walking in it represented Christ risen from the dead. I could not help thinking how can any man that represents the Savior ever sin more? Only think, what could have been his feelings when walking through the streets representing that divine person! It makes me shudder.

Last night we had a most refreshing shower. The drought had become quite serious. The Chinese have fasted and prayed for rain, and have hired the Portuguese to pray for them.

This story was updated in 2022.


Karen Williams Gutkowski April 20, 2014 - 8:34 pm

A Puritan with make up on and her shoulder’s exposed?

New England Historical Society April 21, 2014 - 7:52 pm

^Well, the Puritan fathers weren’t watching over her in Macao!

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