Washington welcomed 1983 last night with a mix of routine and revelry, working and merrymaking, that embodied both celebration and serious purpose.

A panorama of events around the city in the minutes before and just after midnight, as 1982 ended and 1983 began, contributed to an overall impression matching the skies overhead--cloudy.

Perhaps one of the largest parties in town, and one that reflected as much pleasure and enjoyment as could be found, was held in the grand foyer of the Kennedy Center, where men and women in formal attire who had just left theater performances mingled with others clad casually in jeans waltzing to the strains of a string orchestra.

Those partygoers whose waltzing was rusty seemed undismayed.

"It's amazing how you learn to waltz when the music is playing," said a woman from Annandale wearing a conical green paper hat to set off her elegant green silk dress.

Horns honked at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, a traditional New Year's Eve gathering place, where eight young women sang "Happy New Year" to the tune of "Happy Birthday." Traffic there stopped briefly as merrymakers surged into the street. Later, a nearby parking lot became a dance floor as couples cavorted to music from a radio.

A flower vendor at the corner expressed a less exuberant view of New Year's Eve.

"The only thing I want to do is sell these flowers and go home and go to sleep and let the other people go crazy," he said.

Also working last night, although not necessarily sharing or voicing the vendor's beliefs were weather forecasters, emergency room nurses and taxi drivers. "It's just a regular night," said a cabdriver who had been cruising Connecticut Avenue vainly seeking a fare as midnight struck.

At Greater Southeast Community hospital, the overnight nurses' shift was not celebrating, either. "We don't have time," said one of them, Trudy Patterson.

Also contributing to this report were Alma Guillermoprieto, Molyn Burkett, Ned Corrigan, Joan Johnson, Adam Loory and Ellie Pitts.