Americans prepared for their 369th Thanksgiving with appropriate festivities ranging from parades and church services to turkey bowling and turkey races.

On the minds and in the prayers of many this Thanksgiving Thursday were the hundreds of thousands of servicemen abroad, especially those in Saudi Arabia.Hostages in the Middle East also are subjects of concern this Thanksgiving.

Frank Reed, celebrating his first holiday weekend with his wife and son in Malden, Mass., after 44 months in captivity in West Beirut, said he can't really enjoy his freedom "unless the rest of the hostages get out."

New York and Houston, Texas, will enjoy major Thanksgiving Day Parades.

In Plymouth, Mass., where it all began in 1621, descendants of the celebrant Pilgrims and later immigrants will take part in the traditional dinner sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce after a Pilgrim's Progress march in costume from Plymouth Rock to First Parish Church.

The dinner for 1,400 at Memorial Hall will require two tons of turkeys and four seatings.

A Gainesville, Fla., naturalist said the original Thanksgiving feast was one of the first high-fiber, low-cholesterol feasts in the New World.

Charlotte Porter, associate curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, pointed out that the European diet to which the Pilgrims were accustomed was heavy on meat and scant on vegetables. New World plants - including corn, potatoes, beans, peppers, tomatoes and cranberries - revolutionized the diet of American settlers.

But vegetarian dissenters in Boston claim the American diet is still too meat-oriented and scheduled their meat-free Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday with a menu of tofu turkey, French pasta, butternut squash chowder, a vegetable melange, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and Swiss torte.

Meanwhile, the Fund for Animals in Texas accepted live turkeys for placement on the organization's Black Beauty Ranch near Athens, Texas, and the fifth annual national Adopt-a-Turkey campaign was busy delivering 17 homeless, abused and liberated turkeys to adoptive homes with animal rights activists in eight states.

The campaign's farm sanctuary near Watkins Glen, N.Y., has placed 62 turkeys so far, all of whom will be guaranteed death with dignity.

Less dignified is the unorthodox Thanksgiving usage of frozen turkeys as bowling balls by bowlers in Norfolk, Va., and 11 other cities spread across the country from Atlanta to Phoenix, Ariz., where turkey bowls are scheduled this week.

Three holes are drilled in each turkey so they can be flung down the lane in tournaments that raise funds to buy holiday food for the poor.

Ron Dresner, marketing assistant for Fair Lanes bowling centers, said that Norfolk was the only city where bowlers can toss their birds at pins painted with the face of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"We're hoping that it will catch on," said Dresner. "You've got to have some fun with this."

Dinners for the poor were the order of the day.

In Los Angeles, a platoon of Hollywood celebrities and members of the Los Angeles Raiders football team will dish up dinner to 5,000 homeless at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. Houston's Superfeast, which served 16,000 people last year, is being prepeard for 20,000 this year.

In New York, inmates at the Riker's Island jail who are studying culinary arts prepared 100 turkeys donated by restaurants for distribution to homeless shelters.