Snow and New Year's Day.

Moments of renewal and adolescent joy, of snowball wars, sculpted figures, slides, spills and sleds.

Washington was a city blessed yesterday by a rare coincidence of two occasions -- the resolve and rest of the coming of winter, of potholes and frozen streets, wind chill and aching bones, were forgotten to celebrate this special time.

There were hangovers, to be sure, minds so severely fogged yesterday from midnight whistle-blowing and champagne-drinking that a first noon glance outside at the whitish glare was enough to provoke howls of pain.

But to most souls, even those who had to work, there was a trace of magic in the city.

"We stayed open till 4 o'clock this morning because it was New Year's and all. This job can be a pain sometime, you know, but last night, with the snow and everything, everyone was . . . so, happy," said Carolyn Matheny, 19, a show bar dancer at butterfly's on 14th Street. "I actually got up a bit early today just to come to work, I felt so damn good."

The graceful entry of 1981 was officially accompanied by an accumulation of two to three inches of snow in the Washington area, which began falling shortly before midnight and continued intermittently throughout the night. One minute into the new year, as the snow began sticking, the area's first baby was born. Matthew Adams, weighing 8 pounds 9 ounces, was born at Sibley Memorial Hospital to Alvin and Catherine Adams of Landover.

The snow may not disappear quickly. The National Weather Service predicted colder weather and higher winds for today, with temperatures dropping to the low 20s by afternoon and winds gusting to 15 to 20 miles per hour.

The New Year's Day snow fell most heavily between midnight and 2 a.m., and by midmorning yesterday, as temperatures hovered near freezing, most of the main roadways in Washington and the suburbs were clear. Traffic officials throughout the area said they expected them to remain so overniight for this morning's rush hour. Although all local, state and federal government offices and most major businesses will be open today, officials expected traffic to be lighter than usual, with residents savoring final moments of the holiday.

Yesterday, meanwhile, was an occasion to celebrate.

"No, really, I had a great time already today. Bought my kid a new sled and showed him how to use it this morning," said a man outside an office building on Vermont Avenue NW yesterday, as he dropped a boxful of working material into the trunk of his car.

"I'm Bob Brickner," he said. "Work for Gershman, Brickner and Bratton -- technical management consultants. Gershman and Bratton got the day off. I gotta work."

On the Mall, a family of four from Charleston, S.C., frolicked near the Washington Monument, as gleeful as if it were the first snow they had ever witnessed. In fact, it was.

"The kids, they've never really seen anything like this," said Diane Katz, as she watched her husband and two children construct a figure in the snow that started out resembling a boy, then a man, then something that looked very much like Susan B. Anthony.

"It's almost like magic," said Katz. "New Year and snow."

On C Street NW, in front of a garden facing the Federal Reserve Board building, stood a man in stocking cap and down overcoat who truly appreciated the subtlety of the moment.

"This garden," said photographer Bill Mills, pointing at a clump of dried weeds and brush, "is really special. It's a wonderful form of landscape architecture. It's called low-maintenance gardening.The architects used things like weeds and made a garden out of it.

"I've been photographing this place at a lot of different times in very different weather, but this snow really brings out the color. Just look at those browns and yellows.

"I just had to be out here on a day like this."