Along the F Street Mall, the lamp posts were covered with dust, not wreaths.

From the Electronic Corner radio store, the voice of Nat King Cole did sing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But that was nearly drowned out by the pounding sounds of the Funkadelics' "Aqua Boogie," blaring from Gerri's rock record store nearby.

"There is no Christmas mood," said Polly Krantz, manager of the Seven and Nine Women's apparel store on F Street. "Since the energy crisis of '74, people have cut down on electricity. I don't think we ever recovered our spirit."

Farther down, in front of the Blue Mirror Grill, three District police officers on the lookout for jaywalkers had their views.

"Everytime we give someone a ticket," said Maureen Walsh, "they remind us what reason this is." Officer George Brown chuckled, "I decided the other day not to give Santa Claus a ticket for jaywalking. That made me feel like Christmas."

Other than those incidents and the sound of church bells occasionally clanging out a carol, "It just doesn't seem quite right," Officer Cathy Foster said.

Jack Phelan, a Capitol Hill resident who was standing in fornt of Brentano's Book Store trying to get people to sign a petition, calling for a referendum on the convention center, said he had been too busy to get into the Christmas mood.

"Me and my wife both. All of our time is spent on civic affairs. We didn't even have time to buy a tree this year. Maybe next year."

With the cost of Christmas trees and their accessories skyrocketing-one store was selling fake four-footers for eight dollars-many persons along F Street said they could not afford to decorate as they had in years past.

"When I was growing up in the Apple (New York)," said Roger Green, a shoe salesman, "Man, we had lights in every window. we had two trees-one for Santa and one just to look good. At first I thought I had gotten too old, but it's this area. I still go back to New York for Christmas."

Although there is still time, it seemed yesterday that it would take a mammoth effort to transform Washington into anything remotely resembling a Christmas card scene.

In some of the city's chaning neighborhoods-around 15th and Corcoran Street, for example-short plastic trees were stuck u p behind window bars.

On the sprawing lawns just off of Rock Creek Park, nativity scenes and Rudolphs, Dancers, Prancers and Vixens were conspicuously absent.

At the Ghetto Fashion, Inc., at 14th Street and Wallach Place, the music of Charles Brown's famous hit tune, "Please Come Home for Christmas." could be heard from a speaker in front of the store. But the only ornaments on this side of town were stuck on the hoods of white-on-white Cadillacs that rolled on wide-white-walled gangster tires.

"You know what happen last year Sanna Claw came down down here, don't you?" said one inebriated man who stood in front of the Sunny South Market at 14th and T streets NW. "You just bet he ain't coming back, that's all I gotta say."

"Somebody ought to ask Mayor Washington what gives in this town," said Polly Krantz of the Seven and Nine Shop. "I mean isn't the mayor suppose to be responsible for this kind of thins?"

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce is located just across the street from Krantz's shop, but it was closed yesterday. In the window was a plain tree with three tiny boxes wrapped with colored paper at its base.

"I'd say it's prices," Krantz said. "I made a list of the things I was going to get this year. It didn't come close to the list I made a couple of years ago, last year for that matter."

"I think the weather has a lot to do with the mood," said Chaka Jones, an employe at the DC Lady Boutique on F Street. "I's so warm. You think of 'white' Christmas, right? Besides, I don't have enough money to afford the Christmas spirit this year."

"There's just too much separation between church and stat in this city," said Austin Rohrback, an employe at Electronics Corner. "Used to be all the stores would put up decorations, get into the spirit of things. Now its strictly commercialism. All the meaning is gone.. This is a city without a mood."