The Anzac Dawn Service is an established and increasingly well-commemorated Australian national day. Its rhythms include music, readings of ritual texts and moments of scripted silence and stillness, all of which take place in familiar commemorative environments. This article takes up the role of darkness in shaping how and what participants perceive of the Dawn Service. It draws on renderings of darkness as generative of atmosphere, linking this to national identity and commemoration. It dwells on three analytical points: that darkness recasts the built environment as mysterious and shadowy, drawing together representational and non-representational aspects of the event; second, that darkness conjures the crowd of participants as unknowable and therefore imagined to each other; and finally, that the dawning light introduces a sense of special temporality, as the inevitability of the changing light conditions moves participants through a range of affective states linked to a specifically national narrative.