Why we celebrate a new year has always been a puzzle, and Sunday night won't be any less baffling than usual. Will we come to bury '78 or praise it? Will we toast the triumphs of the past, or drink to ward off the dangers of the future? Will we (boringly) make resolutions, only to discover (depressingly) that we made the same one last year?

Or will we go one better" Isn't it time that New Year's resolutions took on a new meaning? Isn't time that the city that thinks in agendas came up with one for Jan. 1 that is new and better?

Yes, you cry. So here, in honor of the arrival of 1979, is a different sort of New Year's resolution. Call it Pet Peeves We Hope Will Vanish Along With 1978.

We hope that rush hour cheaters on the Beltway finally get theirs.

These are the charmers who, caught in a dead stop, try to save a few car lengths by cutting onto the shoulders. Total anarchy.

Sooner or later, though, the impatient types always have to cut back in-and in '79, we resolve not to let them.

We hope that the TV weatherpersons will quit the nonsense of predicting, months in advance, when it will snow.

Even if they were right (which they haven't been) and we had warning (which we haven't had), no one would be able to drive in the stuff, anyway.

New Year's punishment for precipitous precipitation predictions: one week in Florida-a week when it monsoons.

We hope that the District of Columbia motor vehicle people do away with those Bicentennial license plates.

Pretty soon you'll be three years out of date, guys. We've got nothing against patriotism, but honestly. . . .

Punishment for failure to retag us: 1,979 years in the new tags line at the Municipal Center. That's about how long we have to spend there now ourselves.

We hope that someone will please explain-or better yet, stop-the system whereby we file our federal income tax returns to places far, far distant.

As we all know too well, Maryland and District residents send their returns to Philadelphia. Virginians send theirs to Memphis. In years past, the IRS folk have neglected to pass out those free government envelopes. They are heavy favorites to forget again.

So if the taxes you're paying don't dismay you, the 15 cents you have to spend just to prove you've been a good kid will.

To the IRS, we offer this notion: Why not let us, bureaucrats without peer, process our own returns? That way, in '79, we'll have only ourselves to blame.

We hope that Metro will once and for all stop that squeak the subway brakes every time they're applied.

The piercing noise we know and hate was actually provided a new way to tell the tourists from the locals. The tourists hear The Noise and look around, panic in their eyes, to see who's being mugged. The locals just stare straight ahead.

To Metro's brass, this warning: Either fix the brakes or we'll sentence you to a lifetime of trying to feed crumpled dollars into a farecard machine.

We hope that C&P Telephone stops charging or threatening to charge, for information calls.

One of the great remaining wonders of the world is how quickly the information operator can look up Aunt Mabel's number. Surely this skill must not be allowed to go the way of the white whale.

To C&P, we say: If information operators truly cost that much, then charge us more for the times we phone Dubuque. This has not been a recording.

We hope that some local politician who is truly in tune with the people will propose a "truth-in-junk-mail" law.

You know the envelope. It is always pastel yellow and coral pink, and it always leaps out of the mailbox at you.

You know the letter, too. For a mere $150, it says, you can enjoy a week of sun and sin. Of course, back on page four, you learn that the $150 does not cover air fare, meal or lodging.

Tells us the truth in '79, resort owners. It won't hurt your business, either, I'd wager. To some of us, February getaway is worth any price.

We hope that the Bullets repeat. That the Redskins repent. That Liz Ray rebuilds her reputation. That amaretto does, too.

We hope that, once and for all in '79, Washington gets it straight: Capitol is the building, capital is the seat of government; it's Kennedy center, but Capital Centre.

We hope that no one writes the wrong year in the upper right hand corner of a personal check after Sunday. And we hope that no one is superstitious about fives. After all, 1979 marks 50 years since the Depression, five since Watergate and only five until the joys of 1984.

But above all, we hope one thing for 1979. It's three words. The first is have-a-happy.