5 Weirdest Hot-Selling Purchases of the 2011 Holiday Season

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During the holidays, it’s expected that clothing, electronics, gift cards and, of course, toys will be hot sellers. But guns? I suppose many of them would fit nicely into a stocking. But still.

It’s not surprising that over the holiday season of 2011, plenty of gift cards were sold, and several trendy electronics (tablets and e-readers) and apparel items (overpriced basketball sneakers) were also hot sellers. But here are a few of the items that you might not have expected to see big sales over the holidays.

Guns. The biggest days in history for gun sales took place during the 2011 holiday shopping season. Black Friday, the epic shopping day after Thanksgiving, turned out to be the biggest day ever for sales of firearms. Huge numbers of guns were also sold the week before Christmas, when about half a million background checks of gun buyers were conducted.

(MORE: Top 10 Shopping Trends for the 2011 Holiday Season)

Soda Stream. Every holiday season always seems to bring with it some odd new must-have gadget. Not long ago, the masses decided every kitchen must be equipped with one of those K-cup coffee makers, even though freshly ground coffee is cheaper and tastes much better. This year, a make-your-own-soda machine called the Soda Stream was frequently selling out at Targets and Best Buys around the country.

Chryslers. Thanks to year-end sales and incentives, December has become a hot month for buying cars. Even so, Chrysler sold a lot of cars in December, with sales surging 37% compared with December 2010. In some ways, it’s surprising that Chrysler has been selling any cars lately, because during the recession-bailout days, many observers figured Chrysler would be out of business by now.

(MORE: U.S. Carmakers Accelerating out of the Recession)

A Gift for Yourself. The “self-gifting” trend seems to have crossed a line and turned into annual tradition during the holidays of 2011. Roughly 6 in 10 shoppers braving the malls were buying for themselves — and possibly some other people as well. And what were they buying? Home goods, clothes and, apparently, lots and lots of TVs, which have gotten so cheap in certain instances that some consumers camped out in front of stores for over a week for the chance to buy one.

Gifts for People You Don’t Know. Despite the rise of self-gifting, people are still plenty capable of surprising acts of selflessness. That’s clear from the appearance of “Secret Santas” paying off layaway accounts of people they don’t know. Apparently, the movement began when one layaway angel entered a Kmart in Michigan, asked for a layaway account that contained toys among the purchases and paid it off anonymously. Since then, more than 1,000 layaway angels have followed her lead, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the accounts of total strangers.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.