12/05/2012 12:36 pm ET Updated Dec 05, 2012

Little Havana Residents Wait 8 Days For Christmas Meal Voucher (VIDEO)

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How long would wait outside for some free groceries? For some in Miami's Little Havana, that answer is days.

Thousands of people in the historic Cuban enclave awaited the chance to have a very merry Christmas when in an annual tradition Wednesday morning, the Latin American Chamber of Commerce gave away vouchers residents can later exchange for roughly $200 worth of food for a holiday meal.

"I think they gave away like 4 or 5 bags the very first time around," the chamber's Luis Cuervo told CBS Miami of the first such giveaway, nearly 30 years ago. "This thing has grown to the tune that we've been passing out 3,000 bags per year."

Those in need as well as those trying to save during the holiday season began camping out as early as late November -- more than a week in advance -- to be among the 3,000 families to receive a voucher toward feeding their families.

Juanita Alvarez was the second person in line, arriving eight days early.

"We had a good time. We met many people, and we got together with old friends," she told Local 10.

"We sleep overnight, we have fun, everybody shares coffee and we enjoy ourselves," she told WSVN.

Unlike the excessively long voting lines which plagued the Miami area during the national election, many in the large queue wrapping around the 1400 block of West Flagler Street were joyful, with friendly banter and impromptu concerts.

Families who turn in their vouchers on the December 19 distribution day will receive a basket of food including a turkey, rice, vegetables, and pies.