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By Center for Personal Finance editors

Over the course of 84 years, the celebration of International Credit Union (ICU) Day® has evolved from the first official credit union holiday established by the Credit Union League of Massachusetts in 1927 into the internationally recognized observance it is today.

Originally "Credit Union Day" (CU Day), the formal appreciation of credit union members and workers as well as the pioneers of the credit union movement, had two beginnings. The first, in 1927, was established on Jan. 17, because America's "Apostle of Thrift," Benjamin Franklin, was born on that day. At the time when CU Day was established, the credit union movement in North America was rapidly developing. People were either too busy to celebrate or too new to the credit union movement to recognize the significance of their actions, and after a brief trial period, CU Day faded away.

Today, ICU Day celebrates the common roots of 186 million credit union members in 97 countries. 

Twenty-one years later in 1948, the centennial of the first credit union arrived. By then, about five million people belonged to 12,000 credit unions in the United States and Canada. America's credit union leaders at this time called for an occasion for bringing people together to reflect on credit unions' cooperative history and achievement much more than they had in 1927. They also wished to promote the credit union idea nationally. To do so, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) decided to give CU Day new life—this time with a national celebration on the third Thursday of the month. This time, CU Day caught on, and celebrations continued in the following years.

Meanwhile, the credit union movement was spreading across the globe. By 1964, CUNA had established CUNA International to formally expand its aid to credit union pioneers worldwide. As new national movements joined the credit union family, the idea of a holiday that everyone could enjoy, regardless of religion, political beliefs, or cultural differences, appealed to many. Numerous credit unions began to distribute CU Day promotional materials, and the day of honor and recognition came to be acknowledged globally.

In January 1971, the World Council of Credit Unions Inc. (WOCCU) was established to aid the substantial worldwide credit union progress. At the time, about 38 million members belonged to 24,000 credit unions globally. In the same year, WOCCU created the first International Credit Union (ICU) Day materials that were used around the world. CU Day had officially become ICU Day.

Today, ICU Day celebrates the common roots of 186 million credit union members in 97 countries. The credit union movement has come a long way since the first financial cooperative was established in Germany just 163 years ago. As we observe past achievements and look forward to the accomplishment to come, we invite you to join us in celebrating ICU Day on Oct. 20, 2011.

Published October 17, 2011

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