Photographer Páll Stefánsson went to downtown Reykjavík to capture the day’s atmosphere.

Iceland became a republic on 17 June 1944, the birthday of Iceland’s biggest independence hero Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879). People were happy in downtown Reykjavík; three days before the holiday, the Government gave permission for up to 300 people to come together. Despite relatively cold weather (10° C / 50° F), there was no rain, making the day better. There wasn’t much fanfare, and to make sure people wouldn’t congregate in too large numbers, brass bands, circus people and other entertainers spread through the city centre.