Life on La Lune French Christmas Quiz 2021: the Answers

Here are the answers to this year’s quiz. Score one point for every question answered correctly. If a question has two correct answers, score half a point for each one you get right. I’ve given links to relevant posts on Life on La Lune, which provide additional information.  

Q1 When did French become the official administrative language of France?

a) 1539

b) 1790

c) 1992

Answer: a). The Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts of 1539 made French the administrative language of the kingdom of France for legal documents and laws. The aim was to discontinue the use of Latin in such documents. French was enshrined in the Constitution in 1992 as the national language for all purposes.

Q2 What is said to be unique in France about the primary school in Bioule?

a) It has only two pupils

b) It is housed in a château

c) Occitan is the only language spoken

Answer: b) The school is housed in a château, which the commune acquired and restored to save it from demolition.

Q3 What is this person doing?

a) Fitting a bed sheet

b) Stretching cow’s stomach to make tripe

c) Making pastis, a Quercy dessert

Answer: c) Making pastis, a dessert made with very fine strudel-type pastry and filled with apple. Not to be confused with the aniseed flavoured apéritif.

Pastis: A Quercy Speciality

Q4 With which flower does France commemorate those who have fallen in war?

a) Chrysanthemum

b) Cornflower

c) Poppy

Answer: b) After World War I, President Poincaré decreed that all graves should be decorated with flowers to honour the war dead for the Armistice anniversary in 1919. The chrysanthemum became the flower of choice as one of the only flowers still blooming in November. However, this custom spread quickly to all graves at Toussaint (All Saints Day). Since 2012, the cornflower is the symbol of all those who have died in war pour la France, so b) is the correct answer. However, you can have half a point for a), as I’m feeling generous.  

Cornflowers and Poppies: Symbols of World War I

Q5 How did Nègrepelisse (black coat or mantle) get its name?

a) The Black Prince captured the town during the Hundred Years War

b) Plague doctors wore a black cloak with a hood as a sign of their professionc

c) Charcoal burners were once active in the area

Answer: c) The area was heavily forested in the Middle Ages, which gave employment to the town’s woodcutters, who made charcoal. Their clothes were inevitably coated with charcoal dust. The name dates to around 1087.

Q6 What is a fève?

a) A broad bean

b) A trinket baked into a galette des rois

c) A high temperature

Answer: Both a) a broad bean and b) a trinket baked into a galette des rois. This marzipan pastry is eaten at Epiphany. Whoever finds the trinket is king or queen for the day, wears a cardboard crown and must choose their consort from the assembled company. Half a point for each correct answer.

Q7 Which artist’s work caused a stir when it was installed in the church in Caylus?

a) Marc Chagall

b) Henri Matisse

c) Ossip Zadkine

Answer: c) Zadkine’s sculpture of the Crucifixion was sculpted from a single trunk of wood and challenges the conventional representations of Christ on the Cross. Some Caylus parishioners objected to Christ’s nakedness following its installation in the 1950s.

Q8 What is a poisson d’avril?

a) Plain white fish eaten during Lent

b) An April fool involving sticking a paper fish on someone’s back.

c) Fish released into rivers for the fishing season

Answer: b) This is a tradition in France, although nobody quite knows why. The term also refers generally to practical jokes and hoaxes perpetrated on 1st April.

April Fools’ Day tradition in France: Le Poisson d’avril

Q9 What is the real name of the fictionalised Janac in Jan and Cora Gordon’s 1925 memoir?

a) Carnac

b) Jarnac

c) Najac

Answer: c) the globetrotting couple stayed in the hilltop town of Najac in Aveyron for several months in 1923 and wrote a memoir about their experiences, Two Vagabonds in Languedoc.

Q10 What is un petit gris?

a) A type of snail

b) A touch of the blues

c) A lingering autumn mist

Answer a) a type of edible snail.

Q11 In past times, why might you have had to wear le casque de Saint-Grat (St Grat’s helmet)?

a) You were a conscripted soldier

b) You had committed adultery

c) You had a nervous or psychotic disorder

Answer: c) people afflicted with such disorders made special pilgrimages to Saint-Grat in Aveyron, where they were treated by wearing a metal helmet, which could have been a bell with the clapper removed. I should have thought this was most unlikely to bring about a cure.

The Bells, the Bells: the Magic of Church Bells in Rural France

Q12 What is this building?

a) Le Musée Soulages in Rodez

b) L’Hôtel des Impôts (tax office) in Montauban

c) The library of l’Université de Nantes

Answer: a) Le Musée Soulages in Rodez, inaugurated in 2014 to house the works of Pierre Soulages (now 102) and exhibitions of modern art. Among many other works, Soulages designed the windows in the church in Conques.

Rusty Art in a Local Landscape

Q13 If someone is “rond comme une queue de pelle” (as round as a shovel handle), are they

a) Very fat

b) Very drunk

c) Very rich

Answer: b) very drunk. Originally, in the 17th century, this designated someone who was very fat, but the term’s meaning changed in the 18th century to its present definition. ‘Rond’ implied a barrel or other container filled to bursting point, while the round form of the garden implement symbolised this. I feel they might have chosen a more apt simile than that, though.  

Q14 The basis for which French pastry was actually imported from Italy?

a) Croissant

b) Eclair

c) Macaron

Answer: c) the macaron. Catherine de’ Medici, a member of the powerful Florentine dynasty, married Henri II of France in 1533. She introduced macarons, which at the time were a flat biscuit made of almonds, egg and sugar. The modern type of macaron, with a filling sandwiched between two discs of flavoured meringue, emerged during the 1830s. In fact, the croissant is said not to have originated in France, either, but in Austria.

Q15 Which traffic management system was invented in France

a) Traffic lights

b) Roundabouts

c) Stop signs

Answer: b) roundabouts. Eugène Hénard invented them to address increasing volumes of traffic. The first roundabout was introduced in 1906 in la place de l’Étoile (now la place Charles de Gaulle) around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Anyone who has ever driven around it will know that it is one of the scariest places on the planet. France probably has more roundabouts than any other country, a possible 160,000.

As an aside, there are believed to be no stop signs at all in Paris.   

Q16 In which Nobel Prize category has France had more laureates than any other country?

a) Economics

b) Physics

c) Literature

Answer: c) Literature. France has won 15 Nobel Prizes in Literature. Jean-Paul Sartre famously declined the prize in 1964. France has won 12 Nobel Prizes in physics (Germany has the lead with 28) and 4 in economics (the USA leads with 58).

**In transcribing the questions from the previous post, I managed to transpose b) and c) in this question. Literature was b) and Physics was c) in the previous post. So if you put b) Literature, you are correct. At all events, the correct answer is Literature. Apologies.**

Q17 Which French author’s funeral is said to have drawn more than two million people onto the streets of Paris?

a) Victor Hugo

b) Alexandre Dumas

c) Emile Zola

Answer: a) Crowds jammed the streets for Victor Hugo’s funeral procession from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon on 1st June 1885. The author of Les Misérables and Notre Dame de Paris was revered as a writer and a statesman and was given a state funeral. Dumas and Zola are also buried in the Panthéon.

As an aside, the latest occupant of the Panthéon, where France’s most illustrious citizens are buried, is Josephine Baker, who was born in America. The singer and dancer became a résistante during World War II and was a committed civil rights activist.  

Q18 Where is the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, believed to have really been composed?

a) Lyon

b) Strasbourg

c) Toulouse

Answer: b) Strasbourg, where the composer Rouget de Lisle was stationed in the army at the time. However, it’s not clear if he really composed the warlike anthem, since he was reputed to be an indifferent composer, but history has given him the benefit of the doubt.

Anniversary of La Marseillaise – or should that be La Strasbourgeoise?

Q19 Which of the following French presidents died in office?

a) Sadi Carnot

b) Georges Pompidou

c) François Mitterrand

Answer: a) and b). Sadi Carnot (President 1887-1894) was stabbed by an Italian anarchist while giving a speech. Georges Pompidou (President 1969-74) died from cancer while still in office. Half a point for each name. François Mitterrand (President 1981-95) died in January 1996, having left office c. eight months before.

Q20 How many départements does France have (including overseas domains)?

a) 95

b) 101

c) 107

Answer: b) 101. As with all such things, it’s complicated. Briefly, France métropolitaine (mainland) has 96, including Corsica’s two départements, 2A and 2B (which between them still make up No. 20 for postal purposes). The five overseas départements are: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane, La Réunion and Mayotte.  Further explanations here.

You could have scored a maximum of 20 points (Questions 6 and 19 both had two correct answers: half a point for each correct answer to those questions). No arguing with the judge.

How did you get on? 

16-20 Excellent

11-15 Satisfaisant

6-10 Travail à faire

0-5 À revoir

It only remains for me to wish you une bonne fin d’année (bad luck in France to wish you a HNY before the event). Thank you again for reading the blog this year. I’ll see you next year.

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2021. All rights reserved.


  1. We thoroughly enjoyed your quiz despite a rather shameful score. Far more interesting than quizzes about ‘celebrities’. 🤭 Thank you very much and all the best for 2022 or whatever year it is. (At least I know it’s New Year’s Day)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pleased you enjoyed it. Having compiled one for the past 11 years, it’s becoming more difficult to find good general questions about France, but I keep a note of things that crop up during the year.

      Bonne Année to you too. I keep thinking today is Sunday, and I’m sure I will write 2021 on official docs for several weeks…


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