Peace is in the cards this year.

The fragile dove of peace, an endangered species on last year's happy holiday cards, has fluttered back like a homing pigeon.

This year, Hallmark Cards, the biggest greeting card publisher, and the Greeting Card Association both say peace doves and peace wishes are again a major trend.

"Peace is in the air," said Rachel Bolton of Hallmark. "People today like to express specific views with their cards, not just say 'Merry Christmas.' "

Evidently the card designers are good at predicting the public mood. Since they work a year or two ahead, the cards were under way before such peace-minded global concerns as 1985's summit meetings, Live Aid or "We Are the World."

Sandy Koeser of Hallmark designed her card not just for world peace, but for galactic peace -- the starry firmament brightened with Christmas stars of great magnitude above a shining Earth. Its legend: "To wish you peace at Christmas."

She's not the only one out of this world. "Deck the Stars" design for Summertree shows a space station beaming out a Christmas tree. A space shuttle on a card by Rob Furman for Hallmark, called "Joy to the Worlds," has a Christmas tree below decks and a wreath on the tail. Don't stare too long at the space station dovecote on the cover of M.C. Escher's 1986 calendar by Pomegrante -- the op-art image seems to propel the viewer into the universe. To cope with all this, Landmark Calendars offers the "Astrologic Everyday" calendar.

"Contemporary Christian" cards using modern graphics are the big trends with card publishers as well, said Melanie S. Howard of the Greeting Card Association. Hanukah cards are becoming increasingly popular, with menorahs and Stars of David as motifs.

Prosperity is just around the 1985 Christmas tree.

If the cost of many cards and calendars is any indication, look forward to an affluent new year. Some cards cost almost $6 each and the larger art calendars run near $20. The 1985 Dovecote

Doves are more art than bird on the cards designed by Ted Naos, a Catholic University architecture professor, who last year was one of the few designing peace cards. Five doves fly through four almost invisible panels, to hang or stand as ornaments. His "Shalom" card and "Peace on Earth" die-cut tripanel white cards, when hung in a window, make a message in light on the floor. The die-cut cards, technically difficult to make, are a cottage industry with the Naos family.

Picasso's dove perched on prison bars, Virginia Walker's dove wreathed with barbed wire and Jude Delaney's dove nesting in shackles are Amnesty International's big sellers.

Small stamped-out metal ornaments are a change from paper cards. A solid brass dove of peace comes from the Library of Congress. The Metropolitan Museum of Art uses gold electroplate and silk-screened colors on a dove-and-wreath ornament adapted from an 1850 Baltimore "friendship quilt."

A religious card by American Greetings is embossed to look like a quilted dove. UNICEF has a dove with rainbow streamers by Brazilian artist Paulo de Oliveira and a pastel card with a sky-blue "Pax" by Vietnamese artist Pascale Tran. Among the rare birds is a partridge in a fold-out six-sided pear tree by Graphics 3. Not So Sweet Stuff

A lot of black night and gloom surrounds the starlight. For instance, Stephen King's "Year of Fear" calendar warns of the dark side by listing birthdays of King's fear-inducing horror heroes, including Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Bradbury. The " 'Miami Vice' " calendar from Universal City Studios/Ballantine takes you month by month with the celluloid squad.

The "Mystery and Suspense Engagement Calendar" from Main Street Press, compiled by Basil Santoine, has photos of whodunit writers or impersonators for every week, including writer Ross Thomas, whose latest book is "Briarpatch," Ronald Colman as Bulldog Drummond, the Baroness Orzy, who invented "The Scarlet Pimpernel," Peter Lorre in "The Maltese Falcon."

If the foregoing is scary enough, fortification for thoughts can be found in the German calendar "Wasserschloss -- Trutz und Traum Hinter Wassern und Mauern." Franz Bader (at whose gallery it can be found along with other European art calendars) translates the title as: water castles -- strength and dreams behind water and walls. Equal Rights Calendars

Women may not have achieved all they want in every area, but this year, they're making up for lost time in calendars. Sports Illustrated does have a 1986 calendar of women in swimsuits photographed by Brian Lanker. But no fewer than four Hallmark calendars are men photographed for women. "Classics" offers men "old enough to know what they want and young enough to go for it. They're suave, sophisticated, sexy . . ." Unfortunately, they don't come with phone numbers or names. (If you find out anything about April, do let me know.) "Great Guys" shows a younger set characterized as "not superstars. They're just great guys." (Don't miss March and October.) "Black Men of Washington" calendar by JB Productions offers a suave collection. "Men in Perspective" published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art/Universe is perhaps the only generally sold calendar including a nude man (a Greek sculpture) and ergonomics. For those whose heart remains steadfast, Hallmark has done yet another James Dean calendar -- but not for me.

Those who've been disappointed in men can console themselves with Hallmark's "Jerks: The Modern Woman's Comprehensive Guide to the Twelve Most Common Varieties," compiled by Molly Wigand and LeeAnn Franklin, who explain, "A calendar that helps us to laugh at all the toads we have to kiss on the road to Mr. Right!" Photo-Humorists offers the "Dumpie" calendar, defined as "a downwardly urban mobile professionally inclined executive . . . stripped of his Gold Card; shunned at the health club; even Perrier goes flat in his mouth." Caution: Cats!

Ominously for the doves, cats are another oft-found motif, on calendars as well as cards. One threatening Hallmark card alleges to be "A Christmas Wish From the Cat." The feline smirks from behind a tree covered with colored rats, dangling in fear of their lives. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a pride of 12 different cats -- both hunters and purrers -- together with a really frightening cat on the box of 48.

B. Kliban, the Thomas Nast of the cat in America, this year has a "Cat" calendar with cats in leotards exercising. Workman publishers goes all the way with 365 cats, on a one-a-day desk calendar. A stern mother cat, with a look far too wise, presides over two combative kittens in a 19th-century naive painting used by the National Gallery of Art for greeting and gift cards and a puzzle. By far the most mysterious and menacing cat is the bodyless cat, reminiscent of the Cheshire cat in "Alice in Wonderland," from the National Gallery's Chrysler Garbisch Collection.

Three Siamese watchcats -- Amy Carter's Misty, which once lived with the Carters in the White House; Jeane Kirkpatrick's, which prefers Washington to New York; and Cleo, Elizabeth Taylor's cat, which plays with a diamond necklace, are stars of Purina Cat Chow's "Celebrity Cat Calendar -- The Leaders." The calendar also discloses that author Ray Bradbury's cat, Ho-Ichi the Earless, is not only from Mars and purrs out inspiration but wants a joint byline on Bradbury's next book. Flora and Fauna Flourish

Susan Davis' charming card full of people-owning pets on a frozen river is appropriately a greeting card for the Humane Society of the United States. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's dog Fle che sits at attention on a National Gallery card. Dachshunds have a Sormani calendar all their own. Sor- See CARDS, F9, Col. 1 mani puts out no fewer than five horse calendars, as well as several more dog days. American Greetings' "A Splendor of Horses" takes a rather misty look at cantering through the year. Butterflies flutter through the National Wildlife Federation's pocket calendar from Universe. The Smithsonian Institution's pocket calendar has 13 illustrations of birds and flowers from textiles in its collections. "Migration," the World Wildlife Fund calendar, with an introduction by Roger Tory Peterson, published by Universe, shows butterflies, humpback whales and others on their way from here to there. "Annabelle's Collection" is a portfolio of 12 nostalgic scenes with calligraphic messages.

"Science 86 Desk Diary," from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has a photograph a month showing the surprising beauty found in such strange places as ammonium nitrate crystals and a 250,000-year-old skull. The Farmers' Almanac, edited by Ray Geiger and in its 169th year, prophesies a mild winter. Nice Places to Visit

Regional cards and calendars are all over this year. The newest Washington calendar is the oldest: "Vintage Washington," mostly Library of Congress photographs of the city transversed by trolleys -- published by Memorabilia of Somerville, Mass. "The Washington Post Calendar" chronicles the year in photographs and words by the staff. Tod Healy's "Georgetown House" is a handsome card as is P.T. Simpson's Washington Monument wrapped with ribbon. Hallmark has great city views of Chicago, New York and San Francisco -- but not yet Washington or even Hallmark headquarters in Kansas City. "The Weekenders' Calendar" suggests places to go and things to do in this area. Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural drawings are reproduced on a calendar that gives a visual tour of the master's marvels, including a house complete with a bridge. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's calendar is literally a monumental tour of the country.

Of the visits and vistas, National Geographic goes farthest out with "The Lure of Faraway Places" calendar. Art Groups and Museums

Two Washington women's art groups are marking the days this year. Local 1734 (1734 Connecticut Ave.) offers 12 original signed-and-numbered silk-screen prints in "Local Color" by Sandra Fridley, Laura Seldman and Jenifer Weiss. The Washington Women's Art Center's 24 printmakers, collaborating with the Washington Printmakers' Gallery, publish a calendar with hand-pulled prints on high-quality paper, each worthy of framing.

Museums and galleries today keep the kliegs burning with the help of cards and calendars. Every museum in town touts its collections in calendars and cards, from "The Golden Age of Flight," the National Air and Space Museum/Universe calendar, to the Phillips Collection's glimpses from its holdings. From the town museum comes "The Williamsburg Calendar," compiled by Universe from the Williamsburg collections.

The Wiener Werksta tte still flourishes in "!Glu ckwu nsche! Karten" cards of great Secession design, at Bader's.

The calendar leaves of 1985 brown and fall like autumn leaves. But new buds of Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men and Women are poking out.