Can’t make Thanksgiving this year? Sending your cardboard cutout might be the next best thing

Erin Donnelly
·4 min read
Families like the DiPasquales are sending cardboard cutout replacements as they skip out on Thanksgiving gatherings during the pandemic. (Photo: Zoom Buffalo)
Families like the DiPasquales are sending cardboard cutout replacements of themselves as they skip out on Thanksgiving gatherings during the pandemic. (Photo: Zoom Buffalo)

Judging by the photos of crowded airport terminals, plenty of folks aren’t heeding health experts’ warnings against traveling or mixing with other households for Thanksgiving. Those who are exercising caution by staying home, however, have a clever option for softening the blow with relatives who will be missing their company and superior turkey carving skills this year: cardboard cutouts.

Cutouts had already been having a pandemic moment well before the holiday season, with everything from the Emmys to Major League baseball games breaking them out in the absence of a live audience. Now, they’re being used to fill seats around otherwise sparsely populated dining tables while the actual loved ones depicted remain miles away, safe in their own bubbles.

New York printing company Zoom Buffalo — which, incidentally, also sells window stickers of Gov. Andrew Cuomo should anyone need a reminder to have their celebration adhere to COVID-19 restrictions — is among the businesses those doing a brisk trade in life-size cutouts that can absorb not only any dangerous droplets, but Uncle Chuck’s heated political diatribes to boot. One client, the DiPasquale family, added their own drinks for a more festive touch.

Missy Buchanan in Rockwall, Texas, meanwhile, has gone viral thanks to the standing cutouts she and husband Barry shipped off to family members in California and Texas’s Hill Country after ruling out gracing their kids and grandkids with their physical presence this Thanksgiving. Buchanan showed off her “cardboard family” in a Facebook post in which she called the decision to play it safe “an act of love.”

“We decided that Thanksgiving dinner with the family was too risky this year,” she wrote. “As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, we wanted to show that you can have fun and help keep everyone safe, too. I have so many friends who have been impacted by COVID-19. For us, it's an act of love. And our kids and grandkids are having such fun with ‘us.’”

And students at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz., who will be staying close to campus this holiday season are shipping their cardboard likenesses to their families rather than risk hopping on a plane.

Renate Spilger of Canyon Promotions, which produces the cutouts, says the idea struck her during a planning meeting for their own office Thanksgiving celebration.

“One of our student workers said, ‘Well at least I can celebrate with my office family since I can’t be at the dinner table for Thanksgiving at home,’” Spilger tells Yahoo Life. “So I said, ‘Why don’t we offer students cutouts of themselves to send home to their families? At least they will have a chance to see your smiling faces at the dinner table.’”

Spilger’s team headed to the GCU campus to photograph students who wanted to take part.

Grand Canyon University in Arizona sold cutouts for students to send back home. (Photo: Renate Spilger/Canyon Promotions)
Grand Canyon University in Arizona sold cutouts for students to send back home. (Photo: Renate Spilger/Canyon Promotions)

“Some students dressed up very formally in suits and bow ties, while other ones created a ‘Greetings from Hawaii’ kind of set-up for their families,” she says. “All of the orders where shipped yesterday to families all around the country. Hawaii was definitely the furthest away but we had a lot of students on the East Coast and even a lot of local ones, as well.”

Last but not least, Jose Cuervo is also getting in on the action, inviting tequila enthusiasts to apply to have their very own “doppeldrinker” made in their image. As expected, the life-sized cutouts will show the MIA guest enjoying their favorite drink. It may very well be a margarita, but surely Grammy would rather see you — or, erm, your cardboard twin — nursing a mug of her famous eggnog, in spirit if not in person?

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