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Why More People In Germany Are Renting Potted Christmas Trees

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The grand tradition of decorating a tree for Christmas is believed to have started in Germany.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "O TANNENBAUM")

NAT KING COLE: (Singing) O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum...

SHAPIRO: But these days, some Germans are having second thoughts about buying trees that will be thrown out in the New Year. They're trying to hang on to the Christmas tradition without the same environmental impact.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

This anxiety has become so large that this year, it was given its own name...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Baumscham.

CHANG: Baumscham, or tree shame, has created a new market for Christmas tree rental companies.

SHAPIRO: So to find out how renting a Christmas tree works, we called up one of Germany's Christmas tree rental companies.

BRITTA HORSTSCHAFER: I am Britta Horstschafer, and our business is Martine's Paderbaumchen from Paderborn in Germany.

CHANG: Britta and her husband Martine have been renting out potted Christmas trees since 2015. This year, they sold out a month before Christmas.

HORSTSCHAFER: Lots of people thought - oh, we don't want to cut these trees and such a shame to throw them away after Christmas. So we started letting them grow in these plant buckets.

SHAPIRO: So for the last few years, the Horstschafers have been delivering potted trees all over Germany and picking them up again once the holiday season has wrapped. Britta says keeping a rental Christmas tree alive isn't easy. You've got to water it, and not every renter gets it right.

HORSTSCHAFER: You've got to do it with your heart because in the beginning it's very heartbreaking if they come back and they die again. And it's so - if you don't really do this by heart, it's really, really - how do you say? - it cost loads of nerves.

CHANG: Britta Horstschafer hopes that, in the future, more and more of their customers will opt to keep their rental trees permanently, take good care of them and use the same Tannenbaum for years to come.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE")

BRENDA LEE: (Singing) Rockin' around... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.