In a nation so famously antagonistic towards formality, Anzac Day continues to survive and thrive.
The day's solemn rituals of flags, bugles, silence and speeches are like something from the pre-internet, or even pre-television, age.
For Lambton's Richard Dray, that is all part of the day's appeal.
Mr Dray's late father, Frank, was the regimental sergeant major at Fort Scratchley when Newcastle was attacked by a Japanese submarine on June 8, 1942.
Frank's ashes are scattered in the grounds of the fort.
"They used to live in Alfred Street, and when the guns went off he was in bed sick. He got out of bed and ran up the street," Mr Dray said while watching the sun rise after Thursday's pre-dawn service at Nobbys beach.
"He got to Parnell Place, was knocked over by one of the bombs that hit just near there, then got up here to try and supervise what was going on."
Mr Dray, who wore his father's medals to the service, started attending the Nobbys commemoration five years ago after returning to live in Newcastle.
"It's a very moving service, to me. It still holds a lot of traditions with the hymns, waiting for the right moment for the sun to pierce the night.
"It tends to put me closer to him, when I'm here, particularly when the guns go off, knowing his ashes are up there.
"When I first came here, the way they did it was awesome. To hear the gun fire and hear the surf, it just puts you in the right place.
"It's just a beautiful place, because of its setting more than anything. And Newcastle's such a loving people. We all gather together. You could see the emotion on everyone's faces.
"A beautiful service, a beautiful setting, a fabulous town."
It tends to put me closer to him, when I'm here, particularly when the guns go off, knowing his ashes are up there.Richard Dray
That Anzac Day can nurture such feelings of pride and belonging is no surprise to University of Newcastle historian Dr Kate Ariotti, who told the Newcastle Herald that the Anzac legend had become "intertwined with the national identity".
She said many people felt "more Australian" through family connections to soldiers, especially those who fought in the two world wars.
The 5am Nobbys service drew a crowd in the tens of thousands on a clear, cool night.
City of Newcastle RSL Sub Branch president Ken Fayle lit the Anzac flame before lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes spoke of the struggles many servicemen faced immediately after World War I.
"One hundred years ago, World War I had been finished for just six months, but for so many the battles were still raging," Cr Nelmes said while wearing the medals of her husband's great-grandfather, Reginald Arthur Nelmes, who died at the age of 35 on Hill 60 at Gallipoli's Suvla Bay.
"In France and Flanders, thousands of men waited to be sent back to England, and while they were waiting they were put to work.
"Some had to walk the trenches looking for the remains of men killed so they may be treated to a respectful burial.
"Others had to clear battle graves and transfer the remains of their mates to the newly formed war graves.
"Sadly, many who had come through the war without serious injury were maimed by unexploded shells and mortars unearthed as the areas were cleared to return to the farmers who had lost so much.
"Even in peace, we pay a price."
She described how soldiers, many seriously injured, had waited to board ships for the six-week journey home to Australia.
"It was a frustrating time for all, and many, sadly, never came home. The black dog of depression took them all too often.
"At home, mothers, wives, children and sweethearts all waited not fully understanding why their menfolk had not come home from the war.
"And when the men got home, many more challenges awaited them.
"So why did they do it? The answer is right here: this dark morning, where thousands of people gather freely to pay our collective respects.
"This freedom we enjoy was hard won by the many brave souls who have gone before us, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may gather here this morning in peace.
"We know that this peace, our democracy, and the freedoms we all enjoy, are not truly free."
The shipping container and garbage truck parked across Nobbys Road to thwart a possible terrorist attack were a reminder that the nature of conflict has shifted since the Anzacs' ill fated attack on Turkey.
Anglican Dean of Newcastle Katherine Bowyer, Dean of Sacred Heart Cathedral Andrew Doohan, St Philip's Christian College student Sophie Herbert, Callaghan College Jesmond's Brianni Gedeon, Port Waratah Coal Services representative Terry Tynan, Turkish community representative Ismail Haskara and Maori representative Wharepouri McCully also spoke at a ceremony hosted for the first time by NBN presenter Paul Lobb.
Dr Ariotti said Anzac Day had "waxed and waned" in popularity since it was first observed in 1916 but enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s as Australians searched for a "new sense" of the nation's place in the world.
She said World War I veterans had begun dying in large numbers in that period, prompting their families to start uncovering their military histories.
Jake White and his family have been coming to the dawn service for about 15 years.
"Mum's grandfather was in World War II, so that's why we come along. Our uncle was also in the navy for 30-odd years," he said.
"We always just like to come along and remember them.
"I just think it's good to see all the people come together and pay their respects. It's a momentous occasion."
Matt Elliott, whose family moved from Sydney to Speers Point last year, was in the crowd while daughter Abigail was singing on stage in the choir.
He said the service was a welcome "time to remember why we're all here and how we're all here".
Tighes Hill's Narelle Connor said she was a regular at the dawn service.
"It's important. It's part of our history. It's really important that we stop and remember and think."
When it was over, many in the crowd lingered along the boardwalk at Nobbys to watch the sun blaze onto the horizon, while others adjourned to cafes, pubs and clubs to continue the rituals of a national day rich in routine and tradition.