Barefoot and shirtless or dressed in lace, cotton pastels or suits purchased to fit at least one more season, Washington area residents yesterday basked in 80-degree temperatures that turned Easter Sunday into an early toast to summer.
It was a day to attend services in which Christians celebrate the renewal of life and hope represented by the resurrection of Jesus. Bells sounded and hymns could be heard from open windows.
By 6:10 a.m., the traffic had backed up halfway across Memorial Bridge -- carloads of people heading for Arlington National Cemetery for the Easter sunrise service.
They parked in the lots below and took shuttle buses up the hill to a marble amphitheater hung with American flags and to a stage decorated with pots of white lilies.
Some brought blankets to warm the cold stone benches. Others wore the first yellows and pinks of the season. There were yawning babies and children in new hats, rubbing their eyes.
Sun lighted the columns, the air smelled of fresh grass and perfume. The United States Air Force Band struck up the prelude, and Easter 1986 had begun.
Maj. Gen. Stuart E. Barstad, the Air Force's chief of chaplains, told the crowd he had participated in sunrise services all over the world -- in Egypt, on a West German ball field, in the Rose Bowl and in Bangkok, "but I can't think of any place more appropriate for a sunrise service than right here."
Mary P. Slowik, 30, of Falls Church was one of 4,500 who came to the 6:30 a.m. service. "I thought it would be something different," she said. "I'm predominantly Catholic, and I've never been to a sunrise service. I just thought I'd try it."
Jean Grabowsky, 38, of the District, was there, too. Toward the end of the service, she stood outside on the marble steps that overlooked the Washington Monument and the sun rising over the city.
The hymn, "Sevenfold Amen," could be heard in the background. "It's gorgeous, isn't it?" she said.
At Peoples Congregational Church on 13th Street in Northwest Washington, Sadie Little, 80, left the 11 a.m. services and headed home to await calls from friends. A member of the church for 59 years, she said she is considered "everybody's Aunt Sadie."
"We don't have bad days at this church," Little said, referring to the Rev. A. Knighton Stanley's sermon, titled "Resting on the Post."
"The service was just marvelous. I kept telling the preachers if they stay long enough they are going to get good."
Ouside the church, children, bow-tied and heeled in patent leather shoes, played tag while the grownups talked and admired each other's Easter finery.
Eight-year-old Deidre Vailor, spinning impatiently and stretching the strap of her shiny white purse, walked with her mother Marsha and sister Crystal, 5, to grandma's house. Her Easter basket, filled with lollipops, jellybeans and a coloring book, was missing an essential item: Easter eggs.
"Crystal got hold of the dye and put it in her teacups and all over her face," her mother explained, as Crystal stood in her red, white and blue sailor suit and nodded shyly.
You could hear it coming down East Capitol Street -- a steam calliope playing "Christ the Lord Has Risen Today." Marching behind were about 35 people carrying balloons and a few wearing religious vestments.
It was the 20th annual parade sponsored by The Capitol Hill Group Ministry Inc., an ecumenical organization of 21 area churches.
The parade wound its way from St. James Episcopal Church at 222 Eighth St. NE to Lincoln Park, where homemade bread and fruit juice were served, and The Morris Dancers performed.
"It does keep the community together," said Bowdoin Craighill, warden emeritus of St. Mark's Episcopal Church at Third and A streets SE.
Maurice Black, 14, a student at Rabaut Junior High School, lazily dribbled a basketball while walking from his home to the Turkey Thicket playground in Northeast Washington to play with friends from school.
"That's where everyone is going to be. It's not really a good day for basketball because it's too hot. But I got to practice," Black said. "I wanted to do something special at home but my mother thinks I'm too old to dye eggs."
At Constitution Avenue and 15th Street NW, Tawanza Black, 21, sat glumly inside her father's hot dog concession between the bun warmer and the stove, her head resting in her hands.
"Business has been bad, real slow. I guess people have other things to do. I'd rather be at home relaxing like everybody else," Black said.
Richard Mendez, 20, of Silver Spring, a ringer for "Miami Vice" star Don Johnson, paused on the lawn in front of the Washington Cathedral to take pictures after attending afternoon services with his family.
Dressed in white pants, a muscle shirt and loafers sans socks, Mendez said he planned to spend the rest of the evening at home.
"This is a wonderful day. I'm going to color eggs, have a nice meal, and be with my family and my Lord Jesus," Mendez said as the cathedral belltower pealed in the background.