Virginia is giving its state government employees an extra half day of Christmas weekend vacation, closing state offices at noon tomorrow and keeping them shut until Monday morning.

The closings, ordered by Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), affect most state offices, including all Department of Motor Vehicles customer service centers. Many courthouses also will close at midday tomorrow, while most local government offices will be closed either a half day or the whole day.

In Maryland, such breaks for government workers are rarer. The Charles County government will close its offices both tomorrow and Friday, and Calvert County's public libraries will close at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow. Maryland's state government offices will remain open tomorrow, with most of them closing Friday. The District and federal governments follow that same schedule.

But for state employees in Virginia, the additional afternoon of vacation is welcomed. Jonathan Mosher, a 10-year employee with the Department of Motor Vehicles in Prince William County, said he will use the extra time to finalize his holiday plans.

"This is great because it gives me more time with my family and gives me more time to travel to visit with them," he said.

This is the second year state employees get the extra half day of vacation, but it will be the first time they get an additional day off for New Year's, as well. Because of the millennium fanfare, Gilmore has decided to close state offices on Jan. 3, creating a four-day weekend for most agencies and courts, which also will be closed on Dec. 31.

"This is certainly a happy time in our office," said Bryan Slater, secretary of administration in Gilmore's Cabinet. "For me, it means getting some last-minute shopping done, but I always wait until the last minute to do it anyway."

State agencies that regularly operate round-the-clock will establish an alternative vacation schedule. Similarly, some state employees, including Slater, are required to work for year 2000 readiness.

"I'll have to stick close by the [governor's] mansion," Slater said. "But it comes with the job. And that's why half a day means so much to us. We all appreciate it."

Staff writer Jason McGahan contributed to this report.